Will the Supreme Court’s Rulings on Marriage Equality Create a Huge Mess?

Written by scott on March 30th, 2013

US Supreme CourtWe’ve always looked to the US Supreme Court as the final arbiter of legal disputes, sorting out the arguments, and then, for better or worse, settling the matter. But what if they decide to take half-measures in the marriage equality cases? Doyle McManus speculates at The Los Angeles Times:

The court seems ready to strike down the federal Defense of Marriage Act, while ruling quite narrowly on California’s Proposition 8, allowing a lower-court decision to stand. Such an outcome would make gay marriage legal in California without deciding whether state bans on same-sex marriage are constitutional… What happens to two gay men who marry in New York and then move to Salt Lake City? Will they still be married? If they have children, will the kids have two parents under Utah law? And will their federal benefits, such as survivors’ Social Security benefits, travel with them, even though they’ve moved to a state where their marriage isn’t valid? Will they file their federal tax returns jointly but state returns separately? And don’t even think about the issue of divorce.

He also suspects it will divide the GOP further:

And when the question is changed from marriage to equal rights, the wedge potential is even clearer: Republicans divide right down the middle as to whether homosexual couples should have the same rights as heterosexual couples, 49% to 48%, with young people again more permissive than older voters. One leading GOP fundraiser described the conflict to me as “between the Christians and the donors” — Christian social conservatives who want the party to stand forthrightly against gay marriage, and donors who want the GOP to broaden its appeal to young people and moderates as a path toward winning the next election.

Unless the Court surprises us and rules for an unambiguous right for gays and lesbians to marry across the country, we’re likely in for another 5-10 years of state-by-state fighting over the issue, a prospect I hadn’t really considered unless the Supremes had issued a clear no on both cases.

And although the Justices voted yesterday in the two cases, we’ll have to wait until June or maybe July to hear the results. And I don’t know about y’all, but I suck at waiting.

 

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