AS hundreds of Washington same-sex couples eagerly awaited the opportunity to exchange wedding vows on Sunday, the nation’s highest court Friday accepted two cases regarding such unions.
The nine justices are encouraged to review the photographs from those joyous ceremonies to understand where the country is headed, and how far politics, public opinion and, yes, the law has come.
One case involves the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act, which sought to put the federal imprimatur on marriage defined as an institution between one man and one woman.
With nine states and the District of Columbia now recognizing same-sex marriage, the federal law denies legally married couples rights and access to hundreds of benefits and prerogatives.
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The United States got by for 200-plus years without federal interference in defining a valid marriage. The Defense of Marriage Act was an intrusion.
Eliminating DOMA touches on many issues for gay and lesbian families, from taxes to Social Security benefits. Another less-recognized benefit is immigration law related to married couples.
State Rep. Jamie Pedersen, chair of the House Judiciary Committee, also notes that couples who marry in states with same-sex marriage and return to live in states that do not, would be covered by the federal changes and could be eligible for the federal benefits.
Pedersen said those numbers would include some 18,000 California couples legally married while same-sex marriage existed in the state.
Repeal of that law, by California’s Proposition 8, was also accepted for review. The judicial matrix for same-sex marriage, and arguments for marriage as a fundamental right, could get more legally complex.
The high court could defer to lower court findings and agree that Proposition 8 overstepped, but say the ruling applies only to California. The court could decide that Proposition 8 violates the Constitution and puts the laws in some 31 states that ban same-sex marriage at risk.
The court could also recognize life as it is in the 21st century. Marriage is a fundamental right, and a group of citizens and their families have been discriminated against. Do the right thing.
A ruling is expected in June, traditionally a great month for weddings. Perfect.