On March 26th and 27th, the Supreme Court of the United States conducted oral arguments in regards to two potentially historic cases involving same-sex marriages in the United States. These two cases, United States v. Windsor and Hollingsworth v. Perry, each have a variety of complicated legal issues, but fundamentally have to do with constitutional issues involved with two pieces of legislation on same-sex marriages.
The piece of legislation at issue in Hollingsworth v. Perry involves California's Proposition 8; passed during their November, 2008 state election. California's Proposition 8 was a ballot proposition that amended the California State Constitution to provide that "only marriage between a man and woman is valid or recognized in California". Marriage had previously been legal in the state, following a 2008 California Supreme Court decision. The main legal issue in the case of Hollingsorth v. Perry is whether or not the Equal Protection Clause in the Fourteenth Ammendment of the United States Constitution prohibits California from defining marriage as between a man and a woman.
In United States v. Windsor, the legislation is the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) passed into federal law in 1996. DOMA restricts federal benefits for same-sex marriages regardless of whether same-sex marriages are legal in a particular state. It also provides that states are not required to recognize same-sex marriages performed in another state. The legal issues in United States v. Windsor involve whether DOMA violates the Fifth Amendment’s guarantee of equal protection under the law.
Each of these cases has a variety of other legal issues primarily having to do with whether or not the Supreme Court even has the power to hear either of these cases. There are a wide variety of possible outcomes that could have minor or drastic changes on how marriage is defined and regulated in the United States. The Supreme Court is expected to make a decision sometime in June. Audio recordings and transcripts of the oral arguments for United States v. Windsor and Hollingsworth v. Perry, as well as background information and legal documents related to the case can be found at the United States Supreme Court's website. Additionally, the SCOTUS Blog has written extensively about the legal issues surrounding United States v. Windsor and Hollingsworth v. Perry.
The Library also has a variety of books involving the history and issues involved with same-sex marriage.
Debating Same-Sex Marriage by John Corvino and Maggie Gallagher
From the Closet to the Altar: Courts, Backlash, and the Struggle for Same-Sex Marriage by Michael J. Klarman
Civil Wars: A Battle for Gay Marriage by David Moats
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