Friday, December 07, 2012

Marriage Equality Heads to the Final Hurdle...


The United States Supreme Court will review the decision by the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals that struck down Proposition 8, a 2008 law which banned gay marriage in California.
The appeals court's ruling was issued in February and found the law unconstitutional.  The court will also hear a challenge to the Defense of Marriage Act.  According to  SCOTUS Blog, the court is expected to hear arguments in late March and make a decision in late June.
So interestingly enough, that would put the decision on Marriage Equality for all Americans sometime around....uh... Pride Weekend!?!  Well,  that should make things interesting.    So  what  does this all mean for couples like Us and the thousands of other bi-national same sex couples?   Well,  that depends on how the court rules, obviously.  There are two cases  that will be taken up by the Court.  The first  is  the case against  California's  Proposition 8  which limited marriages in the State of California  to  only between  a man and a woman.   The plaintiff in the Prop 8 case is the  American Foundation for  Equal Rights  (AFER)  
The second case is  Windsor v. United States.  The Windsor case deals with the Federal Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA).  In 2007, Edith "Edie" Windsor and Thea Spyer, residents of New York, married in Toronto, Ontario, after 40 years of romantic partnership.    Spyer died in 2009, at which time New York legally recognized same-sex marriages performed in other jurisdictions.   After Spyer's death, Windsor was required to pay more than $363,000 in federal estate taxes on her inheritance. If federal law accorded their marriage the same status as different-sex marriages recognized by their state, she would have paid no taxes.
The United States General Accounting Office determined that there are 1,049 federal laws classified in the United States Code in which marital status is a factor.  One of the many areas included in these laws in Immigration.  But not only.  Other Federal  rights and privileges of Marriage include Social Security benefits, housing, food stamps, veterans benefits, taxation, civilian benefits, military benefits, employment benefits, financial disclosure and conflict of interest, family rights, loans, guarantees and payments, and a whole bunch of other issues that most of us never encounter in our daily lives    Yet DOMA is denying the right of valid, legally married households  (like ours), to participate as full-fledged citizens of the United States.

According to the 2010 U.S. Census, there were 646,464 same-sex couples who self-identified as such, and 131,729 of them had valid legal marriages. This means there are more than 500,000 unmarried same-sex partner households in the United States that could benefit from the federal recognition of same-sex marriage that would come with overturning DOMA.    Those numbers don't even include couples like us.   Bi-National Same Sex couples legally married and living outside the United States in  "DOMA Exile".  Where in order to simply be with the person I am married to, I had to move to a different country.

So what could the court do?  Well they could  (in theory) kill Prop 8 and  save  DOMA, if that  happens then same sex marriage  will be legal (again)  in the State of California  but  still un-recognized under US Federal Law.  Which for couples like us, would mean pretty much nothing.

But if the  Court upholds the lower court rulings that say DOMA is unconstitutional  then the Prop 8 question is moot, and all marriage discrimination laws at the state level get tossed out with DOMA.   Which means Eric and I get to head  down the US Embassy and  petition for  his "green card", which would give us the option to live back in the United States.  An option we do not presently have.  

But more than all of that,   a ruling by the United States Supreme Court will finally  settle the question  of whether or not the United States will finally join the majority of the civilized world in truly live up the words in the US Constitution and treat all Americans, Gay or Straight  equally under the law.


1 comment:

aNothWestView said...

This will be very interesting to see what they rule and if they rule on the right side of history. I know that once these things get truly under way I will be holding my breath. But it is nice at the moment to see all the positive news coverage of the impending start of gay marriages in my home state of Washington starting Sunday.

I sure do hope that the court strikes down DOMA!