Supreme Court Watch: Out Like a Lion

Vol. 37 No. 1


Sophia M. Stadnyk is a lawyer and writer with extensive experience in local government and municipal law. She is admitted to the bar in jurisdictions in the United States and Canada.

The U.S. Supreme Court certainly kept court-watchers in suspense: the last few days in June had almost everyone guessing as to when the rulings in the blockbuster cases would be released and what they would be.

The Blockbusters: Sex and Race

Judging from the media coverage, the most closely watched and eagerly anticipated decisions were the two same-sex marriage rulings, Hollingsworth v. Perry, No. 12-144, and United States v. Windsor, No. 12-307, addressing, respectively, a question regarding standing to defend Proposition 8 (a ballot initiative passed by California voters that amended the state constitution to define marriage as a union between a man and woman) and the validity of the federal Defense of Marriage Act, 28 U.S.C. § 1738. The Court released its decisions in both cases on June 26. The petitioners in Hollingsworth—regardless of how deeply felt their commitment to upholding Proposition 8 was—were found to lack a particularized interest sufficient to create a case or controversy under Article III, and thus, standing. In Windsor, the provision of the Defense of Marriage Act, Section 3, that defined “marriage” as a union between a man and a woman, was held to be unconstitutional as a deprivation of the equal liberty of persons that is protected by the Fifth Amendment. Although the Court invalidated Section 3, a provision in the Act, Section 2, remains in force and provides that no state “shall be required to give effect to” a same-sex relationship that is treated as a marriage under the laws of another state, or a right or claim arising from such a relationship.

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