|For the most part, it’s decided|
|Written by News Desk|
|Friday, 05 July 2013 11:36|
By Art Parker
Almost three months ago I discussed a couple of cases heard by the U.S. Supreme Court and informed you that we would receive a final decision in June. Last week we got those decisions.
The cases are related to the marriage of people of the same sex, even though the question of those people being able to marry was not specifically asked of the Court. There were two related questions before the Court. The first question dealt with Proposition 8, a California law that passed by popular vote four years ago prohibiting marriages of the same sex in that state. The first real issue before the court was to decide not about marriage, but if the proponents of Prop 8 have "standing" to take action before the Court. Prop 8 was shot down as unconstitutional in the Federal District Court and at the appellate level. As I stated back in April if "standing" is not available for the proponents of Prop 8 then the high court will not rule and the decision of the lower courts will prevail and Prop 8 will be considered unconstitutional in California (The State did not take the action to uphold Prop 8, yet it was a group of individuals trying to do so). Other outcomes were possible, but after reading the printed version of the oral arguments before the court it seemed like a clear majority of the justices were troubled by the lack of merits on the issue of standing. It was clear that the Prop 8 proponents were not injured by the lower court's decision; injury must usually exist for one to bring such action. I didn't believe the Court would rule at all because of the standing question. And, that is exactly what happened last Wednesday, the final day of the current U.S. Supreme Court session. Since there was no standing there was no decision and the order of a lower court will stand.
The second question dealt with the constitutionality of part of a federal law known as The Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), a law that was passed in 1996 when Bill Clinton was President. The federal law clearly stated that marriage was to be between one man and one woman. The law prevents same-sex couples who are legally married from receiving a range of federal tax, pension and other benefits that otherwise are available to heterosexual married couples. The lady at the center of the action was trying to recover a hefty sum in estate taxes paid after the death of her same sex spouse (the two were legally married in New York). Federal law allows an unlimited amount of property (usually) to be passed to a surviving spouse at death via a marital deduction.
Since federal law did state marriage must be between a man and a woman, then the deceased had no surviving spouse to inherit the property and there was no marital deduction applied to the calculations of the Federal Estate Taxes due on her estate.
As I thought would happen the Court ruled a portion of DOMA unconstitutional. The plantiff in this case will receive a return of the tax dollars in question.
So, where does all of this leave us? In California, those of the same sex that wish to marry can continue with their wedding plans. The Court's ruling does not declare that other states must allow marriage between those of the same sex. The Court's decision only deals with California and assures that a decision of a lower court will stand. Across the United States DOMA's unconstitutionality will not allow anyone to marry just whoever they please, but it does guarantee full rights, on the federal level, to those who are married to a person of the same sex just as if they were married to one of the opposite gender.
It will surely be a winning wager that there will be future litigation on the federal and state levels regarding marriage between those of the same sex. In fact, you may ought to get ready because there will probably be a tsunami of litigation on this subject for the next few years.
I'm sure many of you agree with me when I say we saw all of this coming. Before this same sex marriage deal is over it may have as much impact as the civil rights movement. I've been concerned about this for a long time but I've decided to quit worrying about it. It looks like this is another one of those things better off in the hands of God, and surely not in mine.
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