A sharply divided U.S. Supreme Court handed down two 5-4 decisions today, both of which can be seen as positive, if narrow, decisions favoring equal rights.
One SCOTUS decision had the effect of reinstating a 2010 U.S. District Court ruling that California's Proposition 8, banning marriage equality in the state, was unconstitutional. The other decision established that the federal Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) unconstitutionally violated the constitutional rights of same-sex couples who have been married in a state which recognizes the right of same-sex couples to marry.
However, by ruling in Hollingsworth v. Perry [PDF] (hereinafter the "Prop 8 case") that the proponents of Prop 8 --- a voter approved ballot initiative --- lacked standing to appeal U.S. District Judge Vaughn Walker's 136-page decision in Perry v. Schwarzenegger and by limiting its decision in United States v. Windsor [PDF] (the "DOMA case") to the constitutional rights of same-sex couples who have been married in a state which recognizes the right of same sex-couples, the court left open to future adjudication of two vitally important questions:
- Do same-sex couples have a constitutional right to marry in states which have not formally recognized the right to do so?
- Must states, which do not permit same-sex couples to marry, recognize the marital rights of those same-sex couples who have chosen to marry in other states where it is permitted?
Those questions remain, even as today's Supreme Court decisions provide an important pair of victories that move the United States two steps closer to the day when sexual preference will no longer be seen as a measure of an individual's or a couple's character...