Supreme Power Play Part 1 – DOMA and Prop 8 Appeals Bring Gay Marriage Debate Before the U.S. Supreme Court

Supreme Court

Last week, the U.S. Supreme Court heard oral arguments in 2 gay marriage appellate cases that were so emotionally and legally charged that the resulting eventual landmark decisions will unquestionably change the way America handles the issues of gay marriage and states’ rights forever.  Last week, on March 26, the Court heard the case of Hollingsworth v. Perry.  The next day, March 27, the justices heard oral arguments for United States v. Windsor.  The transcripts for oral arguments in each case along with briefs and supporting documents submitted to the justices represent more than one thousand pages.

This four part feature will examine the content of the arguments presented by the petitioners and plaintiffs in the gay marriage fight before the highest court in the nation.  The series will also explore the potential implications on states’ rights issues should the majority of justices decide to rule in favor of gay marriage advocates.

The initial installment of this feature will focus on presenting the basic facts of both cases as well as present the core Constitutional questions which these two cases have placed before the Court.  The second and third installments will provide in depth legal analysis of the Constitutional and social issues which these two cases will force the Court to address.  The last installment in the series will look at the social and historical implications for the nation should the majority of the justices decide in favor of Perry and/or Windsor.

Dennis Hollingsworth  is the petitioner in the Hollingsworth v. Perry case.  He is the CA State Senator who championed the 2008 Prop 8 ballot referendum, which by a majority vote of CA citizens, amended the state constitution to formally define marriage as exclusively between one man and one woman.

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The plaintiff in the case is Kristin M. Perry who is joined in her complaint before the Court by three other homosexual CA residents who believe that their Fourteenth Amendment rights are being violated by the CA constitution, which after the passing of Prop 8, disallows marriage between homosexual couples.  In short, Ms. Perry wants the U.S. Supreme Court to declare that marriage is gender neutral federal civil right.

Mr. Hollingsworth wants the Court to recognize the voice of millions of CA voters who clearly said that they wanted their state constitution to define marriage as being between 1 man and 1 woman and reverse the decision of a panel of three judges from the 9th U.S. Circuit Court, who, on Feb. 7, 2012, ruled that the people of CA were out of order.

U.S. v. Windsor is arguably the more emotionally charged case of the two.  The petitioner is the federal government.  The plaintiff is an eighty-three year old woman named Edith Windsor.  Ms. Windsor’s partner of forty-four years, Ms. Thea Spyer, passed away in 2009.  They had been married in Canada in 2007 and resided in NY, which had passed gay marriage legislation signed by the governor in 2011, but not at the time of Ms. Spyer’s death in 2009.  Ms. Windsor is the executor of Ms. Spyer’s estate and was forced to pay $363,000 in federal estate taxes which her lawyers insist she would have not had to pay if she had been married to a man.

Accordingly, Ms. Windsor brings 1 central issue before the court.  Ms. Windsor believes that the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), which defines marriage as being exclusively between 1 man and 1 woman, represents a violation of her Fifth Amendment right to be equally protected under law regardless of what state she calls home.  While that issue would have been difficult enough for the Court to flush out without interference by the Executive Branch; President Barrack Hussein Obama has ordered Attorney General Eric Holder to stop defending DOMA and has supported a 2012 bill calling for DOMA’s repeal.  Former President Bill Clinton, who signed DOMA into law on September 21, 1996, joined President Obama calling DOMA unconstitutional and urged the Supreme Court to strike it down.


NOTE: This is an introduction to our special series on the Marriage Debate before the Supreme Court. While this introduction is public, the rest of the series is only available to Liberty Intel subscribers. Click here to subscribe to Liberty Intel