December 8, 2012

IconU.S. Supreme Court Delivers More (non) News on Prop 8

The Supreme Court finally addressed the California Prop 8 appeal and the Defense of Marriage Act on Friday, December 7, behind closed doors. 

As you may recall, Prop 8 was a ban on same sex marriage that California voters implemented in 2008.  The official ruling that was handed down on Friday is that the court agreed to hear both cases, which will most likely happen in Spring of 2013, and a verdict handed down by Summer of 2013.  Americans, especially those of the rainbow variety, have been anxiously awaiting the ruling for quite some time.  If the Court had elected to not review Prop 8 next year, it would have meant that gay couples in California would be ringing wedding bells around the corner.  At this time, however, gay couples are still not allowed to legally be married in California.  While this may seem like a step back, it is important to realize that by finally addressing these appeals at the Supreme Court we are that much closer to attaining equal rights without having them revoked months later.

Now, I’m a smart girl, and I am going to assume that you are a smart girl since you are reading this piece, but let’s get serious, this Prop 8 nonsense that has been bouncing around for over 4 years is confusing!  For example (and forgive my personal revelations) my little sister and her wife were married on August 14, 2010.  They had planned their wedding for months, even though gay marriage was not technically legal in California at the time, because they wanted to celebrate their union with family and friends.  At a surprising turn of events, United States district court Judge Vaughn Walker overturned Prop 8 just ten days before their wedding.  You can imagine how overjoyed this made us, even though the legal technicalities were beside the point.  It was just plain exciting to be celebrating a marriage that their own state fully recognized.  But!  Despite the fact that same sex marriage was now technically legal in California thanks to Judge Walker’s ruling, there was a stay that went into effect almost immediately following the decision.  So, when my sister and her wife were married, same sex marriage was technically legal but not actually applicable as a tangible right.  That stay remains, and same sex partners residing in California have not been granted the right to a physical marriage license.

That was two years ago, and it’s still hard for me to wrap my brain around the semantics.  Then, on February 7, 2012, a Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals panel affirmed Walker’s decision declaring the Proposition 8 ban on same-sex marriage to be unconstitutional.  This was a win for gay, but still no legal ceremonies could be performed.  On July 30, 2012, supporters of the marriage ban filed a petition with the Supreme Court, requesting a review.  That was almost five months ago, and now the Supreme Court has finally agreed to hear the case.

Are you still with me?  And so while it appears that we are back where we started, as in sitting on our lovely behinds and waiting for those strangers in the court house to decide our fates, we are actually a little bit ahead than we were five months ago, and we are so far ahead from where we were in the 2008 election.  As many of you know, last month’s election ended with four more states ahead in the marriage equality column.  Same sex marriages are now legal in 11 of the 50 states, though there are a few more states such as California that are in an in between state of limbo.  You can find a ridiculously colorful map here that (sort of) explains the policies state by state.

The Defense Of Marriage Act will also be in review alongside Prop 8 next spring.  The justices will be reviewing the constitutionality of the DOMA and its provision denying federal benefits to same-sex couples who are legally married.  Heartbreaking stories of widows getting screwed by the federal government because their marriage is not recognized on a national level abound, and many states’ judicial systems have ruled that DOMA denies gays and lesbians the equal protection of the laws.  Again, we must wait until spring to learn anything new.

There is still hope.  Everywhere you read, look, turn, it is becoming apparent that the time are a’changing and it won’t be long before 11 states becomes 12 states becomes 25 becomes 50.  Marriage equality advocates knew that this issue would not get resolved until it hit the Supreme Court, and so we are just going through the channels to achieve the freedom that comes with equality.  Until then, we wait.

1 Response to U.S. Supreme Court Delivers More (non) News on Prop 8

  1. Vanessa Monson says:

    While it sucks that it is all still gonna take more time, I would rather wait and have the issue settled once and for all.

Maria Burnham

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Pussy Riot video

Russian feminist punk band Pussy Riot were jailed for two years on 17 August 2012 for “hooliganism”. This video features their latest song and images of the band and their supporters. It was created by The Guardian.

August 17, 2012