Today, the Supreme Court will begin hearings on the cases pending constitutionality of the federal Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) and California’s Proposition 8. It is the first legal step in a process that will end in June, when the Nine are expected to release their opinion to the public–one that could have drastic effects on the rights of homosexuals across the country. On that day, all eyes will be on Washington.
It’s obviously no surprise that the cases have gained serious attention from all over the place. The White House filed an amicus brief on behalf of same-sex marriage advocates; the ACLU and numerous other civil libertarian groups have inserted their opinion; even a whole set of Republicans have switched over to support the plight of those seeking matrimony in states that ban such an act.
Yesterday, the base of fanfare for a strike-down of DOMA grew right here in New York. Attorney General Eric Schneiderman, a main architect behind Gov. Cuomo’s Marriage Equality Act and an amicus brief filer himself, appeared on The Brian Lehrer Show to give his crystal ball opinion on the case’s fate.
One word: unconstitutional.
To argue his point, the head lawyer took a more structural approach, citing federalist concerns above all else:
[DOMA] discriminates against the states that recognize same sex marriage because it says not only the federal government doesn’t have to respect our marriages and provide married couples from New York with all the benefits that every other type of marriage gets; it also says that other states don’t necessarily have to respect our marriages…
This really runs against hundreds of years of jurisprudence in which the United States government–Congress–kept its hands out of domestic relations matters that have always traditionally been a matter for the states. The DOMA case is a fairly straightforward case. It’s a matter of overreaching by Congress and overreaching by the federal government into an area that should be committed to the states.
Then Schneiderman gave his own verdict: “”This is something that, without getting too far into the merits of the case, I think the Supreme Court will strike down.”
Expect the predictions to heat up this week as legal scholars, politicians, Constitution nerds, and interested observers alike weigh in on what is, arguably, the most important social case since Roe v. Wade.
And remember: June really isn’t that far away.