Gay Marriage on U.S. Supreme Court Agenda

January 2013Articles Philadelphia Bar Reporter

Marriage equality is gaining national momentum and prominence, particularly with the U.S. Supreme Court’s recent announcement that it would hear two gay marriage cases.

The battle for marriage equality started in 1993 in Hawaii, where the court decided that the state’s refusal to grant same-sex marriage was discriminatory. However, in 1996, Congress passed the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), which restricts marriage to be between one man and one woman; and also effectively eliminates the requirement for full faith and credit by one state to recognize the validity of a same-sex marriage granted by another state. The next decade saw an increase in DOMAs and constitutional amendments passed by states banning same-sex marriage. This trend started to slowly turn when the California Supreme Court ruled in favor of gay marriage. But, in response, California voters approved Proposition 8 that banned gay marriage. Proposition 8 is one of the cases the U.S. Supreme Court will be reviewing this coming term.

In 2004, Massachusetts became the first state to allow gay marriage. Presently nine states and the District of Columbia permit gay marriage. Most recently, the U.S. Supreme Court accepted two cases dealing with constitutional challenges to laws restricting same-sex marriage. Pennsylvania still does not support gay marriage.