Last month, the U.S. Supreme Court heard arguments in two cases involving same-sex marriage: Hollingsworth v. Perry, dealing with California’s Proposition 8, and U.S. v. Windsor, dealing with the Defense of Marriage Act.
A ruling on what constitutes the definition of marriage, equal protection under the law and Constitutional rights may have an impact on American society. Other issues involve the rights of children and the power of individual states to regulate marriage.
Val Peterson, a House Representative of District 59 in the Utah Legislature, believes a ruling that redefines marriage will have an adverse effect on families.
“The family is the basic building block of society and once that begins to erode, so does society,” Peterson said.
Utah House Representative Mike Kennedy of District 27 believes individual states should decide the issue of marriage. He also thinks wedded same-sex couples shouldn’t be denied benefits
that are otherwise given to traditionally married couples, which the Defense of Marriage Act does.
The Defense of Marriage Act, also referred to as DOMA, is a federal law passed by Congress and signed by President Bill Clinton in 1996 that requires states to recognize only traditional marriages for federal benefits. Today, there are over 1,100 federal marriage benefits.
In the case of Windsor v. U.S., Edith Windsor wed Thea Spyer in Canada in May 2007. The couple later moved to New York, which legally recognized same-sex marriages performed in other jurisdictions. After the death of Spyer in 2009, Windsor was required to pay over $363,000 in federal taxes on inheritance of her wife’s estate because her marriage, though recognized in New York, was not recognized under DOMA.
If DOMA treated their same-sex marriage equally as traditional marriages, Windsor wouldn’t have paid taxes. Windsor filed a petition asking the Supreme Court for an immediate review of the case to expedite the proceedings and obtain a final decision.
Justice Anthony Kennedy warned that DOMA has a “real risk” of breaching the long-held tradition of the states defining marriage.
Utah House Representative Kennedy questions whether the Supreme Court has jurisdiction to be hearing such cases.
“I don’t see that as a problem when we extend the same benefits equally,” Rep. Kennedy said.
Justice Sonya Sotmayor had similar concerns with the federal government being involved in marriage.
“What gives the federal government the right to be concerned at all about what the definition of marriage is?” Sotomayor said.
In 2008, California citizens voted for Proposition 8, an amendment to the state constitution to read: “only marriage between a man and a woman is valid or recognized in California.” In 2012, the Federal Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals struck down the law as unconstitutional. Proponents of Proposition 8 appealed to the Supreme Court.
“I think people should have the right to do what they want as long as they don’t hurt others,” said Scott Carrier, adjunct professor in UVU Communication Department, “Should we allow same-sex marriage? I don’t see why not.”
CNN reported last month that 38 U.S. states have banned same-sex marriage, either through legislation or constitutional amendments. Eight states and the District of Columbia allow same-sex marriages.
During the next couple of months, the Supreme Court will deliberate on arguments for both cases, with a ruling expected in June.