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U.S. Supreme Court hears arguments in same-sex marriage cases

As readers of our Central Massachusetts family law blog may be aware, the United States Supreme Court recently heard arguments in two separate cases involving domestic partnership issues. The first case involved California's ban on gay marriage, also known as Proposition 8. The 2008 voter initiative rescinded the marriage rights previously extended in California to same-sex couples.

Lower federal courts have ruled Proposition 8 unconstitutional. The Supreme Court justices could reinstate the law or strike it down as unconstitutional. If the law is struck down, the justices have a variety of options. They can apply the decision to just California. However, they could also expand same-sex marriage rights to other states or all 50 states. Such a decision would undoubtedly have a big impact on Westborough family law. Same-sex marriage and domestic partnerships are currently legal in nine states and the District of Columbia. Massachusetts was the first state to legalize same-sex marriage in 2004.

The second case before the Supreme Court involves a challenge to the Defense of Marriage Act. DOMA is a 1996 federal law that denies federal benefits and recognition to same-sex couples. Lower courts have invalidated DOMA, holding that the federal government has recognized state same-sex marriages in other circumstances. The Supreme Court is expected to issue decisions on both cases by July.

As the Supreme Court justices deliberate over the two cases, public opinion on gay marriage continues to quickly change across the nation. Polls now show a majority of people in the county favor same-sex marriage. While speculation continues as to the outcome of these two historic cases, only one thing is certain. The decisions will undoubtedly have long-reaching impact on same-sex marriages and the rights afforded to couples for generations to come.

Source: The Wall Street Journal, "Court weighs gay marriage," Jess Bravin, March 28, 2013

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