The battle for same-sex marriage in the US enters the home stretch
Williams Institute Legal Scholarship Director Nan Hunter on same-sex marriage Supreme Court rulings
In two decisions issued on the final day of its 2012-2013 term, the US supreme court ruled that the federal government must accept the validity of same-sex marriages that are recognized under state law, and eliminated the barrier to implementation of a lower court ruling against Proposition 8, which barred same-sex marriage in California. Widely anticipated yet still wildly celebrated, one opinion was the first supreme court decision striking down a federal statute on the ground of anti-gay discrimination, and the second – once it is processed through the lower courts – will restore marriage for gay couples in California, where 12% of America’s population lives.
A Republican Congress enacted the so-called Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) in 1996, a few months before a presidential election, thus forcing President Bill Clinton to either sign it and alienate his gay supporters or veto it and enrage what was then a large majority of voters who supported it. Now a majority of Americans support marriage equality (though, the level of support varies significantly by region), and President Clinton and numerous others have recanted their support for Doma. Yesterday, a majority of supreme court justices cited the name of the law as evidence of its unconstitutionally discriminatory purpose.