News / USA

US Supreme Court Considers Defense of Marriage Act

Gabriela Fore, 6, of Upper Darby Pa., holds a sign with her moms in front of the Supreme Court in Washington, Wednesday, Mar. 27, 2013, as the court heard arguments on the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA).
Gabriela Fore, 6, of Upper Darby Pa., holds a sign with her moms in front of the Supreme Court in Washington, Wednesday, Mar. 27, 2013, as the court heard arguments on the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA).
VOA News
The U.S. Supreme Court held a second day of arguments for and against same sex marriage, this time considering the 1996 federal law defining marriage as between one man and one woman.
 
The Defense of Marriage Act denies same-sex couples certain federal benefits, such as Social Security survivor payments and tax deductions that heterosexual married couples enjoy.  The court is considering whether the law deprives homosexuals the constitutional guarantee of equal protection under the law.
 
Same Sex Marriage Cases

Hollingsworth v Perry
  • Filed on behalf of two same-sex couples
  • Seeks to block California's Proposition 8, which states marriage is between a man and a woman
  • Proposition 8 was approved by California voters in 2008, overriding a state court decision that allowed same-sex marriage

United States v Windsor
  • Challenges the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA)
  • DOMA was passed by Congress in 1996
  • Under DOMA, same-sex marriages approved at the state level are not recognized by the federal government
During the Wednesday session, conservative justices Anthony Kennedy, Antonin Scalia and John Roberts said they were troubled by President Barack Obama's decision not to defend in court the law Congress had approved.  They said it called into question his willingness to defend other laws passed by Congress and challenged in court. 
 
The court heard arguments Tuesday on the constitutionality of California's ban on gay marriage.  The justices indicated a reluctance to rule broadly on the right to marry for gays and lesbians, suggesting the court may be similarly cautious about the federal ban.
 
Rulings in both cases are expected by the end of June.
 
Recent public opinion polls show a majority of Americans now support same-sex marriage.  It is legal in nine states and Washington, D.C.  Supporters call it a human and civil rights issue and are hoping for a decision similar to one in 1967 that struck down state laws banning interracial marriage.

Countries where gay marriage is legalCountries where gay marriage is legal
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Countries where gay marriage is legal
Countries where gay marriage is legal
But 29 other states have passed amendments in their constitutions that outlaw gay marriage. Opponents insist the institution of marriage must be protected to ensure the family unit.

  • Plaintiff Edith Windsor looks to supporters in front of the Supreme Court in Washington, March 27, 2013.
  • A supporter of traditional marriage rallies in front of the Supreme Court in Washington, March 27, 2013.
  • Demonstrators chant outside the Supreme Court in Washington as the court heard arguments on California's Proposition 8, March 26, 2013.
  • A demonstrator holds a bible while marching outside the Supreme Court in Washington as the court heard arguments on California's Proposition 8, March 26, 2013.
  • Plaintiff attorneys Theodore Olson, right, and David Boies, meet with the media outside the Supreme Court in Washington after the court heard arguments on California's Proposition 8, March 26, 2013.
  • Anti-Proposition 8 protesters are shadowed by a rainbow banner in front of the U.S. Supreme Court in Washington, March 26, 2013.
  • Demonstrators stand outside the Supreme Court in Washington as the court hears arguments on California's Proposition 8, March 26, 2013.

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