The Supreme Court on Friday announced
it will hear two cases related to gay marriage.
At its weekly conference, the court
agreed to hear Hollingsworth v. Perry, the legal challenge to
Proposition 8, the 2008 voter-approved constitutional amendment which
put an end to the weddings of gay and lesbian couples taking place in
California after the state Supreme Court legalized such unions.
Defenders of Prop 8 appealed February's
U.S. Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals ruling declaring that the
marriage ban violated the Constitution's guarantee of equal
The appeals court ruled that
“Proposition 8 serves no purpose, and has no effect, other than to
lessen the status and human dignity of gays and lesbians in
California, and to officially reclassify their relationships and
families as inferior to those of opposite-sex couples. The
Constitution simply does not allow for 'laws of this sort.'” But
the court's majority fell short of ruling on whether gay couples have
the right to marry.
The Supreme Court also decided it would
hear Windsor v. United States.
The case involves Edith Windsor, an
83-year-old lesbian widow who had to pay more than $360,000 in estate
taxes after the death of her wife, Thea Spyer, because the government
would not recognize their 2007 marriage due to the Defense of
Marriage Act (DOMA). The women shared their lives together for 44
The Court of Appeals for the Second
Circuit agreed with Windsor's assertion that DOMA is
unconstitutional. The 2-1 ruling was also the first to apply
heightened scrutiny to the unions of gay couples.
According to court watchers, the
Supreme Court has also given itself a way to opt out from deciding
“There is a good deal of complexity
in the marriage orders,” SCOTUSblog wrote, “but the bottom line
is this: the Court has offered to rule on Prop. 8 and on DOMA Section
3, but it has also given itself a way not to decide either case.”
In the Proposition 8 case, the court
has also agreed to address whether proponents had legal standing to
pursue their case. If the court declares they did not, then the case
Similarly, the court will decide
whether the House of Representatives has a right to defend DOMA in
Arguments are likely to be heard in