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Supreme Court Issues Ruling on Same-Sex Marriage

same-sex-marriage-bigThe Supreme Court on Wednesday cleared the way for same-sex marriage to resume in California, turning away an appeal by supporters of Prop 8.

The court also overturned a key provision of the Defense of Marriage Act, which denied federal benefits to legally-married same-sex couples.

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LOS ANGELES — The 9th Circuit Court of Appeals reaffirmed it is likely to be at least 25 days before gay marriages can resume in California.

same sex marriage delay

Kirsty Hood, 24, left, kisses Nora Tavitian, 23, at the Equality California offices in West Hollywood. (credit: Al Seib/Los Angeles Times)

Just before noon Wednesday, California Atty. Gen. Kamala Harris urged the federal appeals court at a news conference to lift its stay on a 2010 lower court ruling declaring Proposition 8 to be unconstitutional.

The court’s normal process is “to wait to be notified of the judgment by the clerk of the Supreme Court. That won’t happen until the 25-day period expires. Once the judgment is received, the panel that decided the case will take action,” David J. Madden, an appeals court official, told The Times.

Madden said the court had not received any legal paperwork from Harris asking them to expedite the process.

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SACRAMENTO, Calif. — California Atty. Gen. Kamala Harris urged the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals on Wednesday to lift its stay and allow same-sex marriages to resume immediately.

filephoto Kamala Harris

File photo: Attorney General Kamala Harris (credit:

Wednesday’s order by the Supreme Court instructs the 9th Circuit to lift its stay on the original ruling in 2010 by U.S. District Judge Vaughn R. Walker that found California’s controversial Proposition 8 was unconstitutional.

The appellate court put a hold on Walker’s decision pending the resolution of the legal fight.

The Supreme Court decision paved the way for gay marriages to resume in California, ruling the private sponsors of Proposition 8 did not have legal standing to appeal after the ballot measure was struck down by a federal judge in San Francisco.

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WASHINGTON (KTLA) — The chairman of the Evangelical Church Alliance reacted to the Supreme Court’s decisions on Prop. 8 and the Defense of Marriage Act on Wednesday.

“No matter how any of us feel about the outcomes in these cases, one thing is true: the Supreme Court has no authority when it comes to the nature of marriage. That authority belongs to the creator, whom our founders declared is the source of all our rights,” Rev. Rob Schenck said.

The Supreme Court on Wednesday overturned DOMA, ruling that same-sex couples who are legally married may receive federal benefits.

The court also cleared the way for same-sex unions to resume in California, turning away an appeal by proponents of Proposition 8.

“On Proposition 8, the question of whether the people will get to decide for themselves how marriage will be practiced in their states appears to await another day, and that’s a good question to pursue,” Schenck said.

He appealed to all Christians to look at same-sex couples through God’s eyes.

“Today’s decisions are an invitation to look at the reality of same-sex couples and families differently, through the lens of God’s love, to seek and minister with grace and mercy to all people. The gospel is open to all regardless of their sexual orientation or the configuration of their families. This is a challenge that our folks need to meet,” he said.

Rev. Paul Schenck, representing Catholics United for Life, concurred with his brother’s statements.

WASHINGTON (KTLA) — The Supreme Court on Wednesday was expected to issue decisions in two historic same-sex marriage cases.


The Supreme Court was expected to rule on Prop 8 and the federal Defense of Marriage Act.

The justices were expected to give a ruling on California’s Proposition 8, a ban on same-sex marriages approved by voters in 2008.

They were also expected to rule on the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), which denies federal benefits to legally married same-sex couples.

The court could uphold both Prop 8 and DOMA.

That would mean no same-sex marriage in California, as well as no recognition of same-sex marriage by the federal government.

Alternatively, the court could strike down both laws.

The court could also come up with some kind of mixed decision more limited in its scope.

Finally, the justices could decide not to decide, pushing the cases down the road based on a legal technicality.

One couple expected to be watching very closely was Paul Katami and Jeff Zarillo, of Burbank. They are the two plaintiffs in the Prop 8 case.

If the Supreme Court legalizes same-sex marriage in California, officials have said there could be a 25-day waiting period before marriages resume.

That would mean that the earliest ceremonies could be performed would be sometime in mid-July.

WASHINGTON (KTLA) — No ruling was issued by the Supreme court on Monday on California’s Proposition 8, a voter-approved ban on same-sex marriage.


The Supreme Court delayed a ruling on Prop 8 on Monday.

The court released five rulings on Monday, but did not take up Prop 8 or the federal Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA).

The court added Tuesday as an extra opinion-release day. Six cases remained undecided.

A ruling on Prop 8 was expected by Friday, when the court goes on reccess for the summer.

If the justices uphold Prop 8, the ban on same-sex marriage in California would remain in place.

It would also send a strong message to about three dozen other states across the country that their bans on same-sex marriage would also be found constitutional.

If the ban is upheld, it would likely trigger a political campaign in California to put the issue back on the ballot, according to experts.

Voters approved Prop 8 back in 2008, but recent polls suggest that the majority of California voters now support same-sex marriage.

If the court strikes down Prop 8, gay marriages could begin in California by mid-July, officials said.

The Supreme Court was also expected to rule on the Defense of Marriage Act, which denies federal benefits to legally married same-sex couples.

Gay marriage is legal in 12 states, as well as the District of Columbia.

WASHINGTON (CNN) – A majority of justices raised questions in oral arguments Wednesday about the federal Defense of Marriage Act, indicating the Supreme Court may strike down a key part of the law that denies legally married same-sex couples the same benefits provided to heterosexual spouses.

A ruling is expected within three months on the constitutionality of the 1996 law that defines marriage for federal purposes as only between one man and one woman.

Wednesday’s arguments concluded two days of presentations before the high court on one of the most prevalent social issues of this era — the right of gay and lesbian couples to wed and receive the full benefits of law provided to heterosexual couples.

Afterward, Edith “Edie” Windsor, 83, stood on the steps of the courthouse — near the “Equal Justice Under Law” slogan engraved above — and proclaimed something she hid for decades before her challenge against the act known as DOMA.

“I am today an out lesbian, OK, who just sued the United States of America, which is kind of overwhelming for me,” she said. She had just watched almost two hours of oral arguments before the nation’s highest court on how she had to pay higher estate taxes than someone in a heterosexual marriage.

Windsor tried to explain to reporters why she and her late spouse, Thea Spyer, married in New York when the law allowed it after decades together.

Marriage, she said, is “a magic word, for anyone who doesn’t understand why we want it and why we need it.”

“We did win in the lower court,” Windsor added, then later predicted: “I think it’s gonna be good.”

Under DOMA, Social Security, pension and bankruptcy benefits, along with family medical leave protections and other federal provisions, do not apply to gay and lesbian couples legally married in states that recognize such unions.

Windsor was forced to assume an estate tax bill much larger than heterosexual married couples would have to pay. Because her decades-long partner was a woman, the federal government did not recognize their same-sex marriage in legal terms, even though their home state of New York did.

“What kind of marriage is that?”

The court appeared divided along ideological lines during the arguments about whether DOMA is discriminatory and steps on state marriage laws for gays and lesbians.

If legally married homosexuals were being denied more than 1,100 federal benefits, “what kind of marriage is that?” asked Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who said the discriminatory effect is “pervasive.”

“What gives the federal government the right to define marriage?” asked Justice Sonia Sotomayor.

The potential swing vote, Justice Anthony Kennedy, also questioned the reach of DOMA, saying it presents a “real risk of running into traditional state police power to regulate marriage.”

Kennedy’s point caused court observers to speculate he would join the four normally liberal-leaning justices to create a majority against the act.

On the other side, Chief Justice John Roberts repeatedly asked whether it would step on state power to do the opposite of DOMA — pass a law providing full federal benefits to any legally married same-sex couple.

When Windsor’s lawyer argued in court there was a “sea change” afoot today in support of same-sex marriage that leaves DOMA outdated, Roberts said that is because of “the political effectiveness of those on your side” swaying public opinion.

Roberts and Justice Antonin Scalia also suggested DOMA could still remain in place as a valid extension of congressional authority, as 41 states do not allow same-sex marriage.

Paul Clement, the high-profile lawyer hired by House Speaker John Boehner and fellow Republican legislators to defend DOMA, suggested the act was passed as a “cautious approach” in response to initial efforts in some states to change state marriage laws to include homosexuals.

“In 1996 something was happening” in the country, Clement said, adding that Congress wanted to created uniformity in the federal sphere and not sow confusion in states that did not want same-sex marriage.

However, Justice Elena Kagan drew an audible gasp from the packed courtroom by quoting from the official House reports of 17 years ago, when legislators stated one reason to pass DOMA was to “express moral disapproval” over gays and lesbians being allowed to wed.

It was not until 2004 that Massachusetts became the first state to legalize same-sex marriage.

No consensus was reached from the bench on the gateway or jurisdictional questions — whether House Republicans were on solid legal footing when they stepped in and defended the law after President Barack Obama and his Justice Department reversed their position by concluding DOMA was unconstitutional.

The administration changed its mind after initially defending the law before a federal judge hearing the Windsor lawsuit.

Roberts tweaked Obama for not having “the courage of conviction” to continue enforcing the law even if he thought it was discriminatory.

At a news conference later Wednesday, House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi of California called congressional Republicans irresponsible for funding the defense of what she called a discriminatory law at a cost she put at $3 million.

“On the basis of what I heard, the questions of the justices, the response of the participants, I’m very optimistic that DOMA will be struck down,” Pelosi said.

“We didn’t have horns”

To Windsor, Wednesday’s arguments represented another step in the evolving history of gay rights in America.

For years, she said, she wore a circle of diamonds as a pin instead of a traditional diamond ring to hide her lesbian relationship from co-workers.

“We all lived, really, behind masks and in closets, indeed,” Windsor explained. “So what happened is there was, as we increasingly came out, people saw that we didn’t have horns. People learned that, okay, we were their kids and their cousins and their friends, all of whom were coming out for the first time. And I think it just, it just grew to where we were human beings like everybody else. And I really think that’s what made the change.”

Laughing, she told reporters: “I’m talking to you freely. I’d have been hiding in a closet 10 years ago.”

Public interest remained high outside the court in advance of Wednesday’s session, but not at the same level as Tuesday’s arguments in another case involving California’s voter-approved ban of same-sex marriage.

A smaller crowd gathered than the day before, with most of them opponents of DOMA.

“I’m here today because I’m a social worker and I’ve seen a lot of people suffer over the years,” Mary Ann Piet told CNN. “And I’m concerned about not getting people their human rights, their dignity as people.”

Conservative supporters of the law contend it codifies a fundamental cornerstone of society, and changing the definition of marriage would have widespread negative impacts.

The California case

During Tuesday’s arguments, the justices seemed to lack consensus on both jurisdictional and constitutional questions relating to the voter-approved California law, known as Proposition 8, which bans same-sex marriage.

The overriding legal question in the California case is whether the Constitution’s guarantee of equal protection under the law prevents states from refusing marriage to a defined class of people.

When it rules, the court could strike down laws across the country banning same-sex marriage, or it could leave the current patchwork of state laws in place, choosing to let state legislatures and state courts sort it all out.

“This was a deeply divided Supreme Court, and a court that seemed almost to be groping for an answer here,” CNN Senior Legal Analyst Jeffrey Toobin said after the arguments.

Four of the more liberal justices seemed at least open to the idea that same-sex marriage should be allowed in California. Three of the more conservative justices seemed aligned with the view that marriage should only be for a man and a woman, and it’s likely they’d be joined by Justice Clarence Thomas, who doesn’t speak at arguments.

That could leave Kennedy as the swing vote, as has often been the case.

While admitting the law’s defenders are “not just any citizens,” Kennedy raised concerns about whether just the possibility of same-sex marriage was enough to establish they had suffered harm — a key jurisdictional hurdle allowing them to appeal in the first place.

Nine states permit same-sex marriage

Among the 41 states that now forbid same-sex marriage, nine of them allow civil partnerships. Nine other states allow same-sex marriage, and about 120,000 same-sex couples have gotten married, according to estimates.

Prohibitions seem to run counter to polls that show rising support overall for same-sex marriage.

A CNN/ORC International poll released on Monday found 53% of Americans now support same-sex marriage, up from 40% in 2007. As to how the federal government should handle the issue, another CNN/ORC International poll out Tuesday found 56% of the public feels the federal government should also legally recognize same-sex marriages.

The fate of one of the nation’s most divisive issues was now in the hands of the U.S. Supreme Court.

The nine justices will decide whether Proposition 8 — which amended the state Constitution to define marriage as between a man and a woman — will stand as law in California.

Carolyn Costello has local reaction.

Washington (CNN) — As partisans argued pointedly over same-sex marriage outside the U.S. Supreme Court building, either hoping for or dreading a landmark decision, justices inside seemed reluctant to extend a sweeping constitutional right for gays and lesbian to wed in all 50 states.

gay-marriageIn the first of two days of hearings on cases that have the potential to fundamentally alter how American law treats marriage, Justice Anthony Kennedy — considered the likely deciding vote on the divided court — questioned whether the case even belonged before the court.

“This was a deeply divided Supreme Court, and a court that seemed almost to be groping for an answer here,” said CNN Senior Legal Analyst Jeffrey Toobin, who watched the arguments.

On the point of allowing same-sex marriage in California, Justice Elena Kagan, a liberal member of the court, asked, “What harm is there to the institution of marriage?”

But more conservative members of the court took a go-slow approach. Justice Samuel Alito said the law on same-sex marriage is too new.

“There isn’t a lot of data on its effect” on children and the institution of marriage, he said.

The 80 minutes of arguments Tuesday on California’s Proposition 8 ban on same-sex marriages will be followed Wednesday by arguments on the federal Defense of Marriage Act, a 1996 law that defines marriage as between a man and a woman.

Supporters of same-sex marriage rallied outside the Supreme Court, hoping justices would reach for a broad ruling that would strike down bans nationwide.

“We are not asking for anything more than our neighbors, friends and family, but certainly expect no less,” said Todd Bluntworth, who spoke with his husband and their two children to a crowd of supporters hoping for a historic ruling from the Supreme Court striking down laws banning same-sex marriage.

But opponents urged the court to keep out of the issue and leave the decision to states.

“If you want to get married, go to one of the states that allows gay marriage,” said Carl Boyd Jr., a conservative Nashville talk-show host. “Stop trying to force your agenda down our throats. Quit trying to bully the American people with the homosexual agenda.”

Some demonstrators carried sign reading “Kids do best with a mom & dad.”

Tuesday’s hearing involved California’s Proposition 8, which bans same-sex marriage.

Voters approved the proposal 52% to 48% in November 2008, less than six months after the state Supreme Court ruled that marriage is a fundamental right that must be extended to same-sex couples.

The overriding legal question is whether the 14th Amendment guarantee of equal protection under the law prevents states from defining marriage as California has.

Two of the key plaintiffs are Paul Katami and Jeff Zarrillo, a Burbank, California, couple who want to marry but can’t because of Proposition 8. They say the state is discriminating against them for their sexuality.

“Stigma is stigma. And discrimination is discrimination,” Katami told CNN.

“I think that any time there’s discrimination in the country, it needs to be addressed and it needs to be taken care of,” he said. “And that’s why we feel that anytime in our history when there’s been racial discrimination or sexual discrimination of orientation, or in particular marriage at this point, that we always bend toward the arch of equality.”

Patchwork state laws

If the court decides in their favor, it would mark a historic shift in how the law treats marriage, striking down laws across the country banning same-sex marriage and matching an apparent cultural shift toward acceptance of same-sex couples.

Or the court could leave the current patchwork of state laws in place, choosing to let state legislatures and state courts sort it all out.

Forty-one states now forbid same-sex marriage, although nine of them allow civil partnerships. Nine other states allow same-sex marriage, and about 120,000 same-sex couples have gotten married, according to estimates.

California’s bans seem to run counter to polls that show rising support overall for same-sex marriage. A CNN/ORC International poll released Monday found that 53% of Americans now support same-sex marriage, up from 40% in 2007.

California Attorney General Kamala Harris, who is arguing against Proposition 8, said voter-approved marriage bans “are simply unconstitutional.”

The Supreme Court has ruled more than a dozen times that marriage is a fundamental right, “and as it relates to a fundamental right, the court will hold that under the highest level of scrutiny,” Harris said.

On Wednesday, justices will hear arguments in a separate case involving the federal Defense of Marriage Act, which, like the California law, defines marriage as between a man and a woman.

The law bars the federal government from recognizing state-sanctioned same-sex marriages. It prevents legally married gay and lesbian couples from getting federal benefits and privileges, like tax breaks and survivor benefits, that are extended to opposite-sex married couples.

No immediate decision

The court is unlikely to announce its decision until June.

But people could get a sense of which way the decision will go by listening to the questions posed by Justice Anthony Kennedy, said CNN senior legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin.

The court’s four liberal justices are likely to vote to overrule Proposition 8, he said. Four conservatives are likely to vote to keep it.

“The most likely person to give the fifth vote is Anthony Kennedy,” who previously authored two important gay rights decisions, Toobin said.

Partisans speak out

Same-sex marriage supporters say it’s time for the court to take a stand that puts all Americans on the same footing.

“This is about our equality,” Katami said. “This is about our freedom and our liberty. So we are not trying to topple marriage. We are not trying to redefine marriage. What we are trying to say is that equality is the backbone of our country.”

But supporters of Proposition 8 and DOMA say the Supreme Court should stay out of the issue and let voters decide what they want.

“Our most fundamental right in this country is the right to vote and the right to participate in the political process,” said Austin Nimocks of the Alliance Defending Freedom, a Christian advocacy group.

“We don’t need the Supreme Court to take that right away from Americans of good faith on both sides of this issue and impose its judicial solution,” Nimocks said. “We need to leave this debate to the democratic process, which is working.”

Political positions

The Obama administration has formally expressed support for same-sex marriage in California, weighing in on the case in a brief last month. Obama, whose views on the issue have changed over his political career to full support, said he would vote to strike down the state’s law if he sat on the court.

In what some have labeled the “nine-state strategy,” the Justice Department argument is expected to center on the idea that civil union and domestic partnership laws may themselves be unconstitutional and that those states should go all the way and grant same-sex couples full marriage rights.

Other prominent politicians have expressed timely opinions in recent weeks, indicating the importance of the matter in the social context of 21st century American politics.

Hillary Clinton, the former secretary of state and possible 2016 Democratic presidential candidate, recorded a video for a gay rights group indicating her support.

Republicans have described cracks appearing in their party’s long-held opposition to same-sex marriage.

“There is no putting this genie back in the bottle. It is undeniable. The shift is here and we’re not going back,” Republican strategist and CNN contributor Ana Navarro said Sunday.

One prominent Republican, Sen. Rob Portman of Ohio, endorsed that shift this month, two years after his son revealed to him that he is gay.

The case being heard Tuesday is Hollingsworth v. Perry (12-144), dealing with Proposition 8. And coming up Wednesday is U.S. v. Windsor (12-307), which deals with the DOMA issue.

WEST HOLLYWOOD, Calif. (KTLA) — The city of West Hollywood is home to thousands of people who are anxious to see how Prop. 8 plays out in the nation’s highest court.

Throughout California, supporters of overturning Prop. 8 made their opinions known, as the U.S. Supreme Court justices listened to oral arguments on both side of the controversial issue.

“We just want the same rights and the same benefits that everyone else already has,” said gay marriage supporter Brandon Brown.

Councilman John Duran believes the outcome depends on the vote of Justice Anthony Kennedy, who Duran says is expected to cast a swing vote.

“I think it’s always foolish to try and guess what the justices are going to do,” Duran said.

Defenders of Prop. 8 who say the definition of marriage should be between a man a woman remain firm in their stance, and the conservative Justice Anthony Scalia says he saw no grounds for saying gay marriage is a constitutional right.

Colby Melvin, who like others see this as the major civil rights struggle of our time, believes the answer is simple. “It’s really silly when you think about it as we are fighting for love, and how can you say not to love?”

The court is unlikely to announce its decision until June.

–Sara Welch, KTLA News