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Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Supreme Court as an equal rights tipping point

    The tipping point in the fight for equal rights is often a legal ruling by the Supreme Court.  Yesterday that process was begun on the fight for marriage equality and the legal protection for same sex marriage.  With the Court split between a liberal and conservative wing what the Court's ruling will be is anyone's guess.  Even listening to the comments of the justices can often be misinterpreted as to how they will rule.  One commonly held opinion is that the Court will "punt" on the ruling at this time and let the ruling of the California Appeals Court stand that Prop 8 is unconstitutional and reinstate same sex marriage in California.
    The arguments today with be on the Defense of Marriage Act, know as DOMA, and this case has implications for states beyond California.  The Court could rule that DOMA is unconstitutional and require the Federal Gov't to provide benefits to same sex couples in states, like Maryland, that have legal same sex marriage.  This would provide momentum for more states to legalize same sex marriage.
     The Supreme Court has found themselves in this situation with defining marriage once before with interracial marriage.   In 1967 the Supreme Court ruled in Loving v. Virginia that that state's law against interracial marriage was unconstitutional.  At the time 72% of Americans were opposed to interracial marriage.  The Supreme Court also found itself in a similar position in 1954 with its ruling on the constitutionality of segregation in Brown v. Board of Education.  At that time almost half the states, including Maryland, had segregation laws impacting education in their states.  Howard County didn't desegregate its schools till 1965.
    With a majority, 53%, of American in favor of same sex marriage the Supreme Court would be foolish to rule against this rising tide of public opinion.  It would only be a matter of time before another case would be brought back before the Court, possibility with another Obama appointed justice, where they will ultimately have to reverse their opinion.  The argument has been made that this could make Chief Justice Roberts a key vote on these decisions since he is only 56 and will be on the Court for many years to come.

P.S.
Link to yesterday's Court arguments.

P.S. 1
Thanks to Ilana Bittner for a link to an article on how a gay married person has to come out of the closet every day.

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