Since we work with LGBT groups and spend a lot of time thinking about and fighting for gay rights, our friends and families often ask us to explain things like the upcoming Supreme Court rulings. And this stuff gets complicated, so sometimes we even need reminding ourselves. A few of us put together this little primer so everyone knows what’s going on.
The Supreme Court is about to rule in two cases: one around California’s Proposition 8, and one around the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA). Both ridonkulously historic.
Back in 2004, before Twitter was even a thing, San Francisco Mayor and Very Handsome Man Gavin Newsom started performing same-sex weddings. And there was much rejoicing.
Not actually the Mayor, but equally good hair, so we’re gonna go with it.
The California legislature passed marriage equality into law a couple years later. But while you and I were partying and cheering love and happiness like normal people, the bigots of California freaked the eff out.
And in California, you can get a ballot initiative on pretty much anything. It doesn’t even have to be about weed.
So the bigots got an initiative on the ballot in 2008, attempting to end the deeply terrifying nightmare of two adults being able to fall in love and get married. It was called Prop. 8.
Even San Francisco’s youngest citizens were outraged.
Thanks in part to a crap-ton of cash from the Mormon Church, it passed by a 4.5-point margin. All joking aside, it devastated a lot of families.
But then! Renowned conservative attorney Ted Olson teamed up with renowned liberal attorney David Boies to form a superhuman bipartisan legal team that would take on Prop. 8 in court.
Hold on, that’s not them. Here you go:
Oh, you… We’ve come so far since Bush v. Gore!
Anyway, where were we?
Right! Okay, so long story short, skipping over lots of motions and appeals and other second-half-of-Law & Order-kinda-stuff, the Supreme Court will be ruling on Prop. 8 any day now.
The key question for the Supreme Court in the Prop. 8 case: Should anybody but, say, Ellen and Portia get to decide whether Ellen and Portia can get married?
If SCOTUS decides it’s unconstitutional for Cali to discriminate, same-sex weddings can start again there. Back to the rejoicing.
If, on the other hand, they decide gay people should remain second-class citizens, the wedding planners of California will lose out on their best potential market.
Yes, Jennifer. Yes.
What we really want them to decide is that ALL marriage bans like Prop. 8 are unconstitutional, and that any state with caveman laws like that needs to wake up and smell the 21st century.
If that’s their ruling, we’re all gonna run out and get gay-married all over the place.
So if the Supreme Court overturns Prop. 8, that means we win and we can all go home and get caught up on RuPaul’s Drag Race, right?
Also a no.
That’s because a law called the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) says the federal government won’t even recognize same-sex marriages from the states where gays and lesbians can legally get hitched.
That means when you try to do married-couple stuff such as…
- File your taxes together
- Inherit your spouse’s Social Security benefits after she dies
- Sponsor your wife for immigration
- Visit your husband in the hospital
…all sorts of unexpectedly shitty things start happening.
It’s a totally effed up law. How effed up? Well, normally the Attorney General defends federal laws in court, but Obama, his badass self, stopped his administration from defending this one.
But fear not, bigots! House Majority Leader John Boehner stepped in! Because equality makes him cry.
Boehner and his House buddies hired a fancy lawyer and have spent MILLIONS of our tax dollars to defend DOMA all the way to the Supreme Court.
So along with doing away with Prop. 8’s discrimination, our hope is that the court says DOMA is a crock of discriminatory shit, and if you’re married, hey! You’re married. Just like everybody else.
Just picture Justice Sotomayor yelling “Mazel tov!” and tossing confetti.
But if the Court lets DOMA stand, then gay and lesbian couples who are legally married in their own states will still be shit outta luck at the federal level.
But if that happens, whatevs. We’ll just repeal it through Congress.
This is great! Best explanation I’ve seen yet!!!!!
I’m on board with all this EXCEPT the final thing where we have Congress get rid of DOMA if the SCOTUS does not. As long as there are at least 40 GOP senators OR half the Congress +1 is GOP, OR if the President is GOP, that ain’t gonna happen. And to be sure it DOES happen, NONE of the above 3 possibilities can be in place. Pretty long odds, doncha think?
Sorry to be nitpicky, but your summary is incorrect. The California legislature indeed passed marriage equality but it was vetoed by then-Governator Schwarzenegger. Much later, the California Supreme Court ruled the state ban unconstitutional, which was what allowed about 18,000 same-sex couples to legally wed in the year 2008 (whose marriages are still recognized to the extent allowed by DOMA). It was in response to *that* that Prop 8 was put on the ballot the same year and passed.
I believe NY was the first state in which the legislature *successfully* passed marriage equality, in 2011, joining the milestones of first state to achieve marriage equality through judicial action (Massachusetts in 2004) and first to achieve it through popular vote (Maine, Maryland, and Washington in 2012).
Okay, if I didn’t already work for M+R, I’d want to! This is terrific!!!
Props for the ‘Pumping Iron’ hook