In a matter of weeks, LGBT Americans may, in fact, be able to put a ring on it. After an interminable amount of wait at the edge of our seats, we could be finding out the faith of California's contested Proposition 8 and the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) as soon as next Monday. Proposition 8 is a 2008 California ballot initiative that banned same-sex marriage in the state, and DOMA is a federal marriage benefits ban on same-sex couples that are legally married in the 12 states and the District of Columbia that issue same-sex marriages. However, any decision will not be an easy one, so let us examine possible Supreme Court rulings.
When the lower courts of California took up Proposition 8, the first question asked was if the judiciary had the rights to get involved in a state ballot initiative. Baker v. Carr, a case that dealt with the question of the Supreme Court having jurisdiction over legislative apportionment, proved that despite Article IV, Section 4 of the Constitution (guaranteeing individuals a republican form of government and hence a right to vote on issues), if a law is under scrutiny for violation of the 14th Amendment, the judiciary has legitimacy to interfere. Thus, the courts took on the case of Prop 8.
Overall, there are four possible outcomes. The Supreme Court can strike down Proposition 8 under violation of the 14th Amendment equal protection clause and Fifth Amendment due process clause, effectively paving the way for all 50 states to legalize same-sex marriage. Another outcome would have the Supreme Court strike down Prop 8 as a state initiative, claiming that a state cannot take away rights that were in place prior to a state initiative, reinstating same-sex marriage in California only. Lastly, they could choose to take back their decision to even look at the case; it is rare but has been done, leaving the last ruling by the appeal's court (in favor of same-sex marriage) effective, reinstating same-sex marriage in California. So same-sex marriage supporters are reasonably optimistic. However, there is a decision that could trump down all the previously listed possibilities; and that is the Supreme Court saying that Proposition 8 was constitutional. This would be a nightmare for all same-sex marriage supporters and an even bigger nightmare for the lawyers that fought the cases, even for the power-duet of Theodore Olson and David Boies, the lawyers fighting in this case in favor of same-sex marriage.
Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA):
Of the two cases, gay marriage supporters are more optimistic about DOMA being struck down. Section 2 of DOMA says that no state shall recognize same-sex marriages granted by other states, while Section 3 prohibits the federal government from recognizing same-sex marriages. These two sections and especially the third, banning the federal recognition and benefits of same-sex couples, are widely contested on various constitutional grounds and even DOMA supporters are a bit skeptical about the legality of this law.
Regardless of the outcome, this will be a June to remember. Of all the interesting loops this case has taken so far, I find the timing of the decision by the Supreme Court to be the most interesting. Need I say that June is Gay Pride month? With San Francisco Pride coming up in just a week, this decision is either going to be ecstasy for SF Pride goers and really light up San Francisco with quintessential pride, or it could be the most devastating Pride ever to be remembered. A jokester might think the Supreme Court is trying to be clever and hint at a "Prideful" outcome choosing June, but we never know how these things end, as we were surprised with the last minute "change of mind" by Justice John Roberts on Obamacare.
What do you think the Supreme Court ruling will be? Let us know in the comments below.