Young people express strong support for marriage equality, but believe the push for same-sex marriage has diverted too much attention from other important issues facing lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender individuals, suggests a new national survey by researchers at the University of Chicago and Washington University in St. Louis.
The Supreme Court today struck down the federal Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) and rejected a challenge to a lower court ruling that invalidated California’s ban on same-sex marriage, known as Proposition 8. Gregory Magarian, JD, constitutional law expert and professor of law at Washington University in St. Louis, says that the immediate effects of these decisions for same-sex couples will be profound. “The demise of DOMA means that the federal government must treat same-sex couples, legally married under state laws, just like opposite-sex married couples for purposes of federal benefits, tax status, etc,” he says. “The nullification of Proposition 8 appears to make marriage available to same-sex couples in the nation’s largest state, under a prior marriage law that Proposition 8 had purported to invalidate.”
As the U.S. Supreme Court hearings on the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) conclude, it looks like the justices are ready to strike down the law, says Gregory P. Magarian, JD, constitutional law expert and professor of law at Washington University in St. Louis. “The crucial thing about this case is that the Court can strike down DOMA without impacting the right or lack thereof of someone to marry,” he says.
A district judge’s decision to overturn California’s Proposition 8 ban on same-sex marriage technically puts the issue one step away from the U.S. Supreme Court. But Washington University in St. Louis experts say a final ruling may wait until other, similar cases work their way through the legal system.
As the spotlight focusing on same-sex marriage in the United States continues to brighten, the issue is affecting more than the gay and lesbian couples desiring to obtain marriage licenses. “The rapid progress we are seeing on this issue is changing how some gay and lesbian youth are envisioning their own futures,” says Diane Elze, Ph.D., an assistant professor of social work at the George Warren Brown School of Social Work at Washington University in St. Louis. “They are beginning to see marriage as an option for themselves — not just traveling to Vermont for a civil union, or having a commitment ceremony, or acquiring domestic partnership benefits from their employer, but some of them can now imagine themselves as future married persons.”
The recent ruling by the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court allowing same-sex marriages relied on the state constitution’s guarantees of both individual liberty and equality to conclude that no rational basis supports the exclusion of same-sex couples from civil marriage and its benefits, according to Susan Appleton, a family law expert at Washington University in St. Louis. “Although the court took a bold step, the outcome follows unremarkably from a number of contemporary legal developments,” says Appleton, the Lemma Barkeloo & Phoebe Couzins Professor of Law.