Supreme Court Will Hear DOMA Case and Prop 8 Case in 2013

The Supreme Court announced in an order that it has decided to hear the Proposition 8 case and a challenge to the Defense of Marriage Act in 2013. Now, the Court must schedule the cases for oral arguments, which are likely to be heard in the spring of 2013.  Final news on rulings in both cases should be heard by June of 2013.

Freedom to Marry founder and president Evan Wolfson reflected on the news that the Supreme Court will hear Windsor v. United States, one of the key challenges to DOMA:

By agreeing to hear a case against the so-called Defense of Marriage Act, the Court can now move swiftly to affirm what 10 federal rulings have already said: DOMA’s  ‘gay exception’ to how the federal government treats married couples violates the Constitution and must fall. When it comes to the whole federal safety net that comes with marriage – access to Social Security survivorship, health coverage, family leave, fair tax treatment, family immigration, and over 1000 other protections and responsibilities – couples who are legally married in the states should be treated by the federal government as what they are: married.

With the clock now ticking on a Supreme Court marriage decision in 2013, it is more urgent than ever that we make the same strong case for the freedom to marry in the court of public opinion that our advocates are making in the courts of law. With momentum from Election Day victories for the freedom to marry in Maine, Maryland, Minnesota, and Washington, the way to maximize our chances of winning in court over the next several months is to win more states and win over more hearts and minds. We can show the justices that when they do the right thing, it will stand the test of time and be true to where the American people already are.

He also commented on the Court’s decision to hear the Proposition 8 case, Hollingworth v. Perry:

Gay and lesbian couples in California – and indeed, all over the country – now look to the Supreme Court to affirm that the Constitution does not permit states to strip something as important as the freedom to marry away from one group of Americans. And with the clock now ticking on a Supreme Court ruling in 2013, it is more urgent than ever that we make the same strong case for the freedom to marry in the court of public opinion that our advocates are making in the courts of law. By winning more states and winning over more hearts and minds, we maximize our chances of victory in court, showing the justices that when they do the right thing, it will stand the test of time and be true to where the American people already are.

Windsor v. United States dates back to November 2010, when the American Civil Liberties Union filed suit on behalf of Edie Windsor, the 83-year-old widowed lesbian from New York who sued the government for the $363,000 in estate taxes that she was forced to pay under DOMA following the death of her late partner Thea Spyer in 2010. Windsor and Spyer were together for more than 40 years and wed in Canada in 2007. Because of DOMA, their marriage was not respected by the federal government.

In June 2012, U.S. District Court Judge Barbara Jones sided with Windsor by ruling DOMA’s Section 3 – which explicitly restricts marriage to different-sex couples – unconstitutional. In October 2012, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit upheld that lower ruling, and the case was subsequently petitioned to be heard by the nation’s highest court.

The Proposition 8 case, Hollingworthy v. Perry (formerly Perry v. Brown) dates back to March 2009, when the American Foundation for Equal Rights filed suit in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California to challenge the constitutionality of Proposition 8. Prop 8, which passed in California on November 4, 2008, is a citizens’ initiative that repealed the freedom to marry in the state, overturning a May 2008 decision from the California Supreme Court legalizing marriage for same-sex couples across the state.