Case #1 involves the so-called "Defense of Marriage" Act (or DOMA), which is the federal law that says that even if your state allows gays to marry, married gays don't get federal benefits like Social Security or the ability to file joint tax returns. This case isn't about whether states have to legalize gay marriage--it's about whether if a state recognizes a gay marriage, the federal government has to play along.
Case #2 comes out of California (see my previous post explaining gay marriage in California for background). It deals with Prop 8, the ballot initiative whereby those lily-livered California liberals voted to amend their state constitution to take away same-sex couples' right to marry. In this case, the Supremes could hand down many possible rulings, some of which would affect only California, some of which would affect the whole country, and some of which would kick issues back down to the lower courts.
Neither of these cases necessarily has national implications for gay marriage (though they could--#2 especially), but they are still both Very Big Deals, particularly if you share my belief that gay rights isn't "just another issue."
I'll wrap it up here and write more later, as this all develops. Here are some links to media coverage of the issue:
- New York Times
- San Francisco Chronicle
- Washington Post
- ScotusBlog (non-lawyers: read at your own risk)
- FOX News
- Wall Street Journal
What do you think about the Court's decision, dear readers? Are you optimistic?