Metro Weekly

Courtside for Marriage

A SCOTUS ruling could help or hinder in 2013

The fight to expand the definition of family to encompass the diversity of actual families continues in 2013. Legislators in Illinois, Minnesota and Rhode Island are preparing marriage-equality bills.

On another front, Immigration Equality’s efforts paid off recently when the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, in a move praised by the White House, included protections for binational gay couples in its guidelines for comprehensive immigration reform. That effort has gained new traction as the GOP tries to mend its disastrous alienation of Hispanic voters.

The year’s top billing in the struggle for gay families goes to the Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS), which in March will hear oral arguments in two marriage cases: Hollingsworth v. Perry (California Proposition 8), appealed from the Ninth Circuit; and United States v. Windsor, appealed from the Second Circuit, which knocks down the one-man-one-woman definition of marriage in Section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA).

The Ninth Circuit, instead of endorsing U.S. District Judge Vaughn Walker’s sweeping 2010 decision that Prop. 8 was ”unconstitutional under both the Due Process and Equal Protection Clauses” of the 14th Amendment, narrowed it to declare that rights previously granted cannot be taken away. SCOTUS could uphold this, which would not affect states that have not allowed gay marriage. Or it could sweep away all 31 state constitutional amendments barring gay marriage, and impose marriage equality nationwide. Or it could rule that there is no constitutional right for same-sex couples to marry.

This array of options is a bit scary with such a closely divided court. At the same time, a sign of our growing success is the fact that David Blankenhorn, an expert witness for Prop. 8’s proponents in 2010, has changed his mind and now accepts gay marriage.