In 2013, the Supreme Court (SC) struck down relevant portions of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) in the case United States v. Windsor. By striking down the portions of DOMA that defined marriage as only being an act between a male and a female, the SC’s decision required the U.S. federal government to provide recognition to all same-sex marriagesapproved in state’s allowing such marriages. Since then, many on both sides of the same-sex marriage debate have waited patiently for the SC to hear another same-sex marriage case in order to finally clarify whether each individual state is required to issue same-sex marriage licenses. At the beginning of 2015, the SC finally announced that it would be hearing four separate petitions from Michigan, Ohio, Kentucky, and Tennessee that all focus on the states’ rights regarding issues associated with same-sex marriage.
The Same Sex Marriage Petitions Before the Supreme Court
This year, the SC has agreed to hear four different petitions that present four different but related questions regarding states’ rights in the issuance of same-sex marriage licenses. In order to consolidate their review, the four petitions were divided into two distinct cases, and two separate arguments have been scheduled to be presented before the SC. The first argument will be for 90-minutes and revolve around the constitutional right to enter into a same-sex marriage. The second argument will be a one-hour presentation regarding a person’s right to have an out-of-state marriage recognized in another state that does not allow for such marriages.
In addition to consolidating the four petitions into two separate cases, the SC justices also took the liberty to reframe the two questions of constitutional law that would be reviewed in the hearings. Though not typically exercised, the justices have the right to alter the language of the questions of law presented before their court. The two questions that the SC will be officially reviewing are:
- Does the 14th Amendment require a state to license a marriage between two people of the same sex?; and
- Does the 14th Amendment require a state to recognize a marriage between two people of the same sex when their marriage was lawfully licensed and performed out-of-state?
The decision to alter the questions has been met with some scrutiny by legal scholars and activists alike. While some wonder whether the altering of the constitutional questions was in order to stack the deck against the gay-marriage movement, others see the decision as simply good housekeeping. The second position seems more feasible given that the four petitions all featured different constitutional questions, which though similar, would seem to necessitate some altering in order to harmonize both into one tangible constitutional issue capable of review.
Though same-sex marriage is both allowed and recognized in Connecticut, families face difficulties when they leave the state for other locations that do not allow same-sex marriage. Hopefully, the SC’s decision in the two upcoming cases will help clarify the legal and constitutional issues facing same-sex families in the U.S. If you need legal representation or advice regarding any family law related legal issue, contact the experienced Fairfield County family law attorneys at our law firm today.