Thursday, March 28, 2013

Same Sex Marriage and The US Supreme Court

The United States Supreme Court heard arguments this week on two cases involving same sex marriages.  These cases deal with the rights and benefits of same sex couples to wed and receive benefits.  It is anticipated that the Supreme Court will make a ruling on the constitutionality of the Defense of Marriage Act (“DOMA”) which legally defines a spouse as a person of the opposite sex.  (1 U.S.C.A. § 7).  Under DOMA, federal protections and provisions such as Social Security, bankruptcy benefits, and family medical leave protections do not apply to same sex couples.  This is true even if the state in which the couple resides allows for same sex marriage.  One of the cases being heard involves a lesbian woman challenging the fact that she had to pay more in estate taxes when her spouse died because the marriage was not recognized under DOMA even though their home state of New York recognized the marriage.  (See United States v. Edith SchlainWindsor, In Her Capacity as Executor of the Estate of Thea Clara Spyer, et al.SC Docket No. 12-307).  The 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals determined that DOMA is unconstitutional and violates the equal protection clause.  
The second case before the Supreme Court deals with California’s Proposition 8 which bans same sex marriage.  (See Dennis Hollingsworth, et al., v. Kristin M. Perry, et al. SCDocket No. 12-144).  The issue before the Court is whether the Constitution's guarantee of equal protection prevents states from refusing marriage to a defined class of people.  The ruling of the high Court on this issue could impact laws all across the United States.  In the United States, nine states allow same sex marriage. See a breakdown of the numbers provided by CNN.  Connecticut is among the nine states that do allow same sex marriage.
Attorney Pamela Magnano practices divorce and family law with Attorney James T. Flaherty at Flaherty Legal Group in West Hartford, Connecticut
Attorney Pamela Magnano practices divorce and family law at Flaherty Legal Group in West Hartford, CT with Attorney James Flaherty and Attorney Sandi Girolamo

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