SCOTUS brief: DOMA
The Supreme Court is beginning its 2012-2013 term tomorrow (October 1). While in this election year a lot of press and attention has been focused on challenges to affirmative action and the Voting Rights Act of 1965, there is much speculation that a challenge to the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), the Clinton-era law that prohibits the federal government from recognizing same-sex marriages, will make it to the high court. Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg has further fueled speculation by predicting that it will be before the court within the next year.
What is at stake? As of this writing, six states and the District of Columbia recognize same-sex marriage, while two other states have referendums on laws pending this November. Currently, DOMA prevents legally married same-sex couples from enjoying federal benefits enjoyed by opposite-sex married persons, including (but not limited to) joint federal tax filing and Social Security survivor benefits. Several lower federal courts have ruled on various provisions of DOMA, putting pressure on the Supreme Court to have its say sooner rather than later. So far, the Court has not announced when (or if) it will hear oral arguments on DOMA, but on the eve of the first day of the new session, it is premature to speculate one way or the other. We’ll see in the coming days and weeks.
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