The Supreme Court Decisions on Marriage Equality

Monday passed without a ruling by the Supreme Court on Hollingsworth v. Perry (Proposition 8) and U.S. v. Windsor (Defense of Marriage Act). The Supreme Court could issue decisions on Thursday, June 13 at 10 p.m. ET. or later in the month.

U.S. v. Windsor challenges the federal government’s refusal to recognize the marriages of gay and lesbian couples because of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA). Hollingsworth v. Perry challenges California’s Proposition 8 ban on same gender marriage.

If you would like to be the first to know when the decisions come out, there are three options: attend court when the opinions are released, keep refreshing the Supreme Court’s opinions page (http://www.supremecourt.gov/opinions/slipopinions.aspx), or watch the independent SCOTUSblog.com.

After detailed analysis, The Atlantic Wire predicts that the decisions will be issued on June 24 or June 26 and 27.

The Best Case Scenarios:

U.S. v. Windsor (Defense of Marriage Act):

From the Center for American Progress:

DOMA’s repeal would mean that same-sex couples who received marriage licenses in the 12 states and the District of Columbia that recognize marriage equality would be subject to more than 1,000 federal laws, benefits, programs, and protections currently enjoyed by different-sex couples. The ruling would, however, likely have no direct effect on the bans on marriage equality that are law in other states.

In a DOMA-free country, legally married same-sex couples will finally be treated equally under the law with respect to a host of federal programs that they are not able to access today, including but not limited to:

Social Security survivors’ benefits when a spouse passes away
Exemption from taxes on employer-provided health insurance
Being able to file taxes jointly as a married couple
Access to COBRA continuation of health insurance coverage
Being able to deduct the value of an estate when a spouse passes away
Family and medical leave when a spouse becomes sick
Family-based immigration sponsorship
Federal-employee spousal retirement and health benefits
Benefits for service members’ spouses

For all possible outcomes, read the full article at the Center for American Progress.

Hollingsworth v. Perry (Proposition 8):

From the Center for American Progress:

If the Supreme Court were to rule that Proposition 8 is unconstitutional, it would mean at a minimum that LGBT couples would be able to marry in California. In addition to ending marriage discrimination in the nation’s most populous state, striking down Proposition 8 would serve as a monumental symbol in the marriage equality fight. Similar to Windsor, however, if the Court were to invalidate Proposition 8, the way in which it does so will determine how broadly the effects of the ruling are felt.

If the Court were to strike down Proposition 8 using an equal protection analysis similar to that discussed above, the rationale behind the decision would likely apply to all 50 states, meaning all laws prohibiting marriage equality would fail. A decision with such a broad application would instantly become one of the most consequential in Supreme Court history. This broad ruling is unlikely, however, due to the fact that lower courts found alternative ways to invalidate Proposition 8, and the fact that the Supreme Court generally tries to avoid making broad constitutional decisions when other legal rationales are available.

The Court could alternatively hold that California was not free to provide same-sex couples with all the benefits and burdens of marriage through civil unions while withholding the designation of “marriage.” Under this rationale, which was suggested in the Obama administration’s amicus brief, bans on marriage equality in the eight states that have “everything-but-marriage” civil unions or domestic partnerships are unconstitutional. A decision using this rationale would apply to the eight states that allow these civil unions—California, Colorado, Hawaii, Illinois, Nevada, New Jersey, Oregon, and Wisconsin—but not to the entire country.

Finally, the Court could invalidate Proposition 8 by ruling that the U.S. Constitution’s due process clause prohibits California from withdrawing the right to marriage for same-sex couples once that right had been established by the California Supreme Court. If adopted by the Court, this narrow application would apply only to California, meaning marriage equality bans in other states would survive.

For all possible outcomes, read the full article at the Center for American Progress.

Here is the Human Rights Campaign diagram on some of the ways the court could rule on marriage equality this month. You can keep updated on developments at the HRC Stand for Marriage page.

Supreme Court Decisions Scenarios

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