Supreme Court Rulings on Same-Sex Marriage

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Kermit Roosevelt, professor at the University of Pennsylvania Law School with expertise in constitutional law and conflict of laws.  Professor Roosevelt is a frequent media commentator on constitutional issues and supports the University’s affirmative action admissions policy.  His previous books include The Myth of Judicial Activism: Making Sense of Supreme Court Decisions

Quote: “By striking down the federal Defense of Marriage Act, the Court took a small step. It did not impose same-sex marriage on anyone; no couple that could not legally marry yesterday can do so today as a result of that decision. It merely required the federal government to recognize marriages valid under state law.

“In the second decision, Hollingsworth v. Perry, the Supreme Court ruled that the defenders of Proposition 8 lacked standing.  This was the most modest and incremental decision it could have rendered without going against the cause of same-sex marriage. The consequence is to leave intact the district court order enjoining the enforcement of Proposition 8. There are some interesting questions about the scope of that order, but in practical terms it is almost certain that same-sex marriage will now return to California.” Read more

            Media contact: Steve Barnes at 215-898-5181 or sbarnes@law.upenn.edu

Dr. Rogers Smith, a professor of political science at the University of Pennsylvania, chairs the Penn Program on Democracy, Citizenship and Constitutionalism. He is a scholar in constitutional law and American political thought, with a special interest in questions of citizenship, race, ethnicity and gender.  He is author of numerous publications, including Still a House Divided: Race & Politics in Obama’s America (with Desmond S. King).

Quote: “Hollingsworth v. Perry oral arguments suggested that a number of justices were concerned that this is the wrong case coming at the wrong time to decide the constitutionality of same-sex marriage.  Two oddities -- California had briefly permitted same-sex marriages prior to passage of the referendum banning them, and the State of California then refused to defend that referendum before the Supreme Court – mean, first, that there are questions about whether existing California same-sex marriages can or should be rescinded, and, second, that it's not clear the plaintiffs in the case have standing to sue. And some justices feel it's too soon to have evidence on the consequences of legal same-sex marriage.  Consequently, the Court may well decide not to decide this case.

            Media contact: Jacquie Posey at 215-898-6460 or jposey@upenn.edu