On Friday, the Supreme Court of the United States announced that it would hear two cases next year on the topic of gay marriage.
The first case, United States v. Windsor, concerns the constitutionality of the Defense of Marriage Act and whether the federal government can deny rights to legally married same-sex couples. The second, Hollingsworth v. Perry, deals with the legality of California’s Proposition 8 — a state referendum passed in 2008 that banned same-sex marriages after a state court ruled equal protection provisions in the state’s constitution allowed them.
Law School Professor Kermit Roosevelt said the court could address the case in several different ways.
“It could uphold DOMA and California’s Prop 8, which would be the least progressive outcome,” he said in an email. “It could strike them down on narrow grounds that don’t implicate a nationwide right to same sex marriage; or it could announce a federal constitutional right to same sex marriage that would apply in every state.”
He thinks that the court will take the middle path, invalidating DOMA and Prop 8 because “Congress has no interest in overriding state definitions of marriage” and “states cannot take away rights for symbolic reasons.”
But this will not affect Pennsylvania, according to Roosevelt.
“Pennsylvania doesn’t recognize same-sex marriage, and it will be affected only if the court takes the most aggressive approach, recognizing a general right to same-sex marriage,” Roosevelt said.
He thinks that outcome is currently unlikely, but that it will happen eventually.
College sophomore and newly elected Lambda Alliance Chair Dawn Androphy said the Lambda Alliance will reconvene after break to discuss the kind of programming they want to have around the cases.
College junior and former Lambda Alliance Chair Hugh Hamilton sees in these cases the great potential for reform, but also for regression.
“A victory and broad ruling affirming gay marriage would be the biggest landmark achievement [of the Supreme Court] in the past ten years,” Hamilton said. “But if there is a negative ruling, then our cause will basically move at a snail’s pace.”
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