U.S. SUPREME COURT TO HEAR 2 SAME-SEX MARRIAGE CASES, INCLUDING PROP 8 APPEAL FILED BY EX-SAN DIEGO SENATOR HOLLINGSWORTH

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San Diego’s County Clerk “ready to respond immediately”; marriages could resume soon if court finds Prop 8 challengers lack legal standing to appeal

By Miriam Raftery

December 7, 2012 (Washington D.C.) – The U.S. Supreme Court today announced that it will review  two cases involving same-sex marriage, including an appeal by petitioners seeking to overturn Proposition 8 including former San Diego State Senator Dennis Hollingsworth. 

California voters initially voted to legalize same-sex marriage, but later passed Proposition 8 which banned same-sex marriages. California’s Attorney General refused to appeal Prop 8 to the Supreme Court after the 9th circuit court of appeal found it unconstitutional. Thus other petitioners appealed including Hollingsworth, leader of the group Protect Marriage, asking the high court to strike down the 9th court ruling.

The 9th circuit issued a temporary stay to halt resumption of same-sex marriages pending appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court.

Justices could make a broad ruling on the constitutionality of same sex marriage bans, or craft a more narrowly defined decision. Arguments are set for spring with a decision expected next summer. But wedding bells could ring much sooner, since the high court has announced it will first hear arguments to determine if the petitioners have standing. 

If the court finds Hollingsworth lacks legal standing to appeal, the case could be dismissed and the appellate court’s ruling striking down Prop 8 would stand, meaning same sex couples would be free to marry in California.

San Diego Assessor/Recorder/County Clerk Ernest Dronenberg has issued a statement indicating its office is awaiting the Supreme Court decision, which is expected in mid-2013.

“My office is ready to respond immediately as rulings become effective. It is my commitment to all customers that we conduct business in a fair, courteous, and professional manner that complies with court rulings and statutory requirements,” said Dronenberg, whose office currently does not perform same-sex marriages or civil unions.  His office will post updates on its website at http://arcc.co.san-diego.ca.us/ .

Nine states plus the District of Columbia have legalized same sex marriages.  California is the only state that has attempted to outlaw same sex marriages after they were previously approved. Nationwide, some 120,000 same sex couples have married, including 18,000 in California before Prop 8.

This is one of the most significant civil rights cases to reach the high court since Brown v. Board of Education, and provides an opportunity for the Supreme Court justices to affirm the promise of liberty and justice for all, and the Constitutional guarantee of equal protection under the law,” Dolores Jacobs, CEO of the LGTB Community Center in San Diego said, Fox 5 News reported. “Same-sex couples should no longer be subject to differing treatment under the law depending on what state they live or travel in.”

Today the Protect Marriage group posted this message on its website: “More than seven million Californians of all races, creeds, and walks of life voted for Proposition 8 to preserve the traditional definition of marriage because they believe that the unique relationship between one man and one woman continues to meaningfully serve as the cornerstone of society, as it has since the beginning of time. Since its passage four years ago, Prop 8 has been under continuous legal assault, and is now facing its final test at the steps of our nation’s highest court.”

The second case before the high court focuses on the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) ban on federal benefits to same-sex couples who married legally in New York.  Edith Windsor, the plaintiff in U.S. v. Windsor, had to pay a much larger estate bill when her partner died than other married couples solely because her partner was female.  Other plaintiffs in the case are federal workers denied healthcare benefits through their same-sex partners.

The Obama administration’s Justice Department has declined to defend the DOMA restrictions. Thus the high court must first determine whether House Republicans seeking to defend DOMA.

Information on the Supreme Court’s announcement today can be found at  the Court’s website at:

http://www.supremecourt.gov/Search.aspx?FileName=/docketfiles/12-144.htm

http://www.supremecourt.gov/orders/courtorders/120712zr_3f14.pdf.

Information on the Hollingsworth v. Perry case may be found at:  http://www.scotusblog.com/case-files/cases/hollingsworth-v-perry/


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