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History-Making Week for Marriage Equality at the Supreme Court -- The Stakes Are Enormous

Here is what you need to know about two cases hitting the Supreme Court this week.

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So will everything be clear after June?

Not necessarily. If the court were to decide it didn’t have jurisdiction in the DOMA case, the original court ruling would be upheld, meaning Edith Windsor would get her money back. But it’s not clear how wide the immediate impact of the ruling would be for other married couples. And depending on the legal reasoning used and how the cases are decided, it could well take more litigation to figure out where new boundaries lie. If couples are legally married in one state, but live in a state that does not recognize that marriage, how will the federal government treat them? In addition, some religious right leaders are already calling for massive resistance in the case of a court ruling that marriage equality is required by the Constitution.

The bottom line

Regardless of what the court does, the political and cultural shift in support of LGBT equality will continue. Support for equality among young Americans is overwhelming.

Last week, the American Foundation for Equal Rights described the Prop 8 case this way:

The Prop. 8 Proponents’ arguments boil down to this: The Constitution does not protect the right of every American to marry the person they love. California can single out its gay and lesbian citizens for unequal, second-class treatment under the law. Government can treat its gay and lesbian citizens as separate and inferior. These arguments cannot be squared with the principles of liberty and equality enshrined in our Constitution. That is why the Prop. 8 Proponents lost in district court and the court of appeals. 

“Beneath the legal arguments in both cases is a simple principle,” says People For the American Way’s Michael Keegan. “These cases are about equality under the law. That’s a core American value and a constitutional principle that, thankfully, is supported by a growing majority of Americans.”

Peter Montgomery is a senior fellow at People For the American Way Foundation.
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