The Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) has concluded the business of ruling on cases for the time being, and we thought that we would devote the next few blogs to an explanation of some of the more groundbreaking decisions that SCOTUS handed down in this session. This week, we are focusing on the Supreme Court’s landmark decisions on same-sex marriage.
You have probably been reading and hearing much about recent Supreme Court decisions that involve the rights of same-sex couples as they pertain to marriage and federal worker benefits, such as health care, dental benefits, social security benefits, etc.
The first decision by SCOTUS has to do with the Defense of Marriage Act, or DOMA, as the law is popularly referred to. DOMA is a law that was enacted in 1996, which defined marriage as “only a legal union between one man and one woman,” and defined the term “spouse” as referring “only to a person of the opposite sex who is a husband or a wife.” Such a definition has prevented the legally married spouse of a same-sex couple (married in one of the 13 states which allows same-sex marriage), to claim benefits as the spouse of a federal worker. For example, until just two weeks ago, if a female postal worker in Vermont were married to another woman (which is legal in Vermont), she would not have been allowed to extend her health insurance benefits to her spouse. Had the same postal worker have been married to a man, she would have been able to extend those benefits to him.
On June 26, 2013, the Supreme Court of the United states ruled a key section of DOMA to be unconstitutional.
HOW THIS AFFECTS AMERICANS:
In a memo issued last Wednesday, July 3, 2013, the US Office of Personnel Management declared that now, in light of the fact that the Supreme Court overturned Section 3 of DOMA, all federal workers, even if they live in states that have banned same-sex marriage (such as Virginia, Ohio or Mississippi), will be entitled to extend federal worker benefits to their spouses and children, regardless of whether the marriage is to someone of the same or opposite sex.
In November of 2008, California voters approved a ballot measure, Proposition 8, that banned same-sex marriages in their state. This measure was controversial, and, in 2010, Proposition 8 was ruled unconstitutional by a federal court. This ruling, too, was controversial, and an appeal ultimately made to the Supreme Court (Hollingsworth v. Perry).
On June 26, 2013, the Supreme Court ruled that the district court’s 2010 ruling (calling Proposition 8 unconstitutional) should stand as a final decision.
HOW THIS AFFECTS AMERICANS:
For those who reside in California and wish to marry a partner of the same sex, this Supreme Court ruling has paved the way to do so.
NEXT WEEK – For the final blog in this series about recent Supreme Court decisions, check in next week as we look at how the Supreme Court weighed in on voting rights.