SCOTUS Overturns DOMA; Kills Ballot Initiatives in Attempt To Punt on Same-Sex Marriage
Ruling 1: Section 3 of DOMA (Defense of Marriage Act) was ruled unconstitutional, i.e. any legal marriage from a state must be treated equally under Federal Law. This gives legal same-sex marriages the ability to file joint federal tax returns. It also allows benefits given to other married couples in these states.
The vote was 5-4 with Justice Kennedy being the swing vote on this ruling. This ruling affirms the state self governing rules and that how Federal Law cannot overrule this in the cases of equal justice under the law.
It also ensures there will be another case soon that will force the court to rule on the other aspects of DOMA and whether same-sex marriage will be forced upon the country by the court or continue to be the domain of the states.
Ruling 2 was on California’s Prop 8. In this 5-4 ruling the court ruled the citizens of California did not have standing to bring this case to Federal Court. This struck down the ruling by the Federal Appeals Court ruling Prop 8 as unconstitutional, but left intact the US District Court ruling that had ruled Prop 8 unconstitutional. It specifically does not force same-sex marriage onto any other state at this time.
It appears the court just wanted to punt on this decision instead of just ruling one way or the other on same-sex marriage. The way they did this though can lead to an unintended consequence in which they just allow judges to overturn virtually any ballot initiative approved by the voters. Any activists judges can overturn any ballot initiative now leaving the voters with no recourse to the federal courts.
The people of California approved Proposition 8 in 2008, which made a State Constitutional Amendment to define marriage as between a man and a woman. The California Supreme Court upheld Prop 8, but U.S. District Judge Vaughn Walker overturned it in August 2010. This ruling will stand depending on any appeals.
What is most baffling about this ruling, SCOTUS is saying the voters have no standing in the federal courts, but they left the US District court ruling intact instead of going back the the CA Supreme Court decision. Time will tell, but this appears to be a disastrous ruling for the voters and a huge win for activist judges.
See other Commentary on the rulings at SCOTUSblog.com.