by E. Dunn
The 2012-2013 Supreme Court season kicked off Monday, October 1, raising the potential for joy and heartbreak as major equality issues wait for review. For now, the court is holding on major LGBTQ cases within its purview, leaving gay citizens on tenterhooks. Among the major cases SCOTUS could take up this season are the legality of DOMA — which has four Supreme Court cases pending — and the appeal of Prop 8. A quick primer is below, but expect matters to get hotter as the court season goes on.
DOMA (Defense of Marriage Act: Bipartisan Legal Advisory Group of the U.S. House of Representatives v. Gill; Dept. of Health and Human Services v. Massachusetts; Office of Personnel Management v. Golinski; Windsor v. U.S.)
Challenges to DOMA come from Massachusetts, New York, and California. Four separate cases claim that DOMA violates the Constitution’s “”equal protection under the law” clause, because same-sex married couples do not receive equal protection (I know, not exactly news).
Among the benefits denied same-sex couples:
Tax credits at the federal level
Social Security Survivor and Retirement benefits
and 1046 additional benefits
*Hospitals that receive Medicare or Medicaid funding must now allow LGBTQ couples visitation rights, thanks to the Obama administration
So far, federal judges have deemed DOMA unconstitutional. The Obama administration is calling for an end to DOMA and announced previously that it will not defend DOMA in front of SCOTUS. This leaves the House Republicans to defend DOMA in court.
Prop 8 (Perry vs. Brown)
California’s anti-gay marriage amendment Prop 8 was struck down as unconstitutional, but marriage equality foes have appealed this decision. SCOTUS can opt to turn down the chance to review the case, effectively upholding the decision that Prop 8 is unconstitutional and mandating gay marriage be legal in California. Or SCOTUS can opt to review the case and make a new ruling.
As of October 2, the court is keeping mum on this case. It’s likely they’ll wait until after the election to handle this one.
NOM and Maine’s Reporting Requirements (National Organization for Marriage v. McKee)
Maine’s campaign disclosure law requires organizations that spend over $5,000 to influence elections in that state to release lists of donors — which has anti-gay marriage groups like NOM, the National Organization for Marriage, nervous. Maine only wants the names of those who donated to ME-specific anti-gay campaigns, such as the current (and previous) campaign to block Maine marriage equality.
NOM petitioned the courts to reverse this decision so its donors won’t face the harassment of angry gays. Because SCOTUS turning down the chance to hear the case, NOM has to out those donors. This comes at a time when marriage equality is Maine is again on the ballot, and voters may hold marriage equality foes accountable. A recent poll gave marriage equality in the state a 21-point lead, so let’s hope it holds!
The court typically announces cases it that has agreed to hear on Mondays, so stay tuned.