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SCOTUS: Same-Sex Marriage Decisions Handed Down

Rachel L. West, MSW, LMSW
The Political Social Worker

Today the United States Supreme Court handed down decisions on two same-sex marriage  cases.

In United States v. Windsor they ruled that the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) is unconstitutional.  DOMA, which went into law in 1996, defines marriage on the federal level as being between one man and one woman. DOMA prohibited the federal government from recognizing same-sex marriages despite couples having a valid marriage certificate.

Edith Windsor who was the plaintiff in United States v. WIndsor brought the suit because she was sent an estate tax bill of more than $300,000 following the death of her long-term partner.  Windsor and her partner had legally married in Canada shortly before her partner’s death. Had Windsor been married to a man she would not have had to pay an inheritance tax.

By striking down DOMA same-sex couples who are legally married will now have that marriage recognized by the Federal government.  They will be able to do things most married couples take for granted like filing a joint federal tax return. It also means that married same-sex couples can now benefit from immigration laws that prevents a spouse who is not a US citizen from being deported.

You can read the court’s decision on United States v. Windsor here.

In the second marriage equality case, Hollingsworth v. Perry (aka the Prop 8 case), SCOTUS ruled that they did not have jurisdiction over the case. What this means is that the lower court’s ruling that struck down Proposition 8 will stand.  Same-sex couples in the state of California will once again be able to marry.

You can read the ruling in Hollingsworth v. Perry here.

This was undoubtedly a historic and joyous day for the LGBT community. It is important to remember that as huge as this outcome is that we still have much work left to do.

Neither of these decisions orders every state to legalize same-sex marriage. So we still have to organize in those states to get marriage equality laws passed.  Then there is the issue of job discrimination.  In 29 states an employer can discriminate against an employee based on that employee’s sexual orientation. There are 33 states that do not have laws making it illegal to discriminate against someone because of their gender identity (source).

photo credit: JoshuaMHoover via photopin cc

Posted by Rachel L. West

In addition to being the founder of The Political Social Worker blog, I am a consultant. My consulting practice offers advocacy and community outreach solutions to nonprofits, social good organizations, and private practitioners. Additionally, I offer career coaching to macro social work students and professionals.

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