The U.S. Supreme Court this week issued opinions on two marriage cases involving the definition of the institution as a union between one man and one woman. The Court struck down part of the Defense of Marriage Act, and dismissed a constitutional California marriage amendment. Prop 8 was passed by more than 7 million voters in the state in 2008.
CitizenLink Judicial Analyst Bruce Hausknecht took some time to answer questions about these decisions to help fill in the gaps where most mainstream media outlets have either misinformed readers, or have left out significant details.
CitizenLink: The news reports have been confusing, mainly calling the decisions a “big win” for gay marriage. Can you break it down for us in plain English?
Bruce Hausknecht: Yes. In the Prop 8 case (Hollingsworth v. Perry), involving the challenge to California’s constitutional amendment defining marriage between one man and one woman, the Court decided that it couldn’t decide the big issue: whether the U.S. Constitution forbids the voters of California from defining marriage the way they did. The Court also decided that the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, which heard the appeal before it got to the Supreme Court, didn’t have the authority to decide the issue either, and erased its 2012 decision, which held Prop 8 unconstitutional. That leaves the case in a posture where the federal district court opinion from 2010 issued by now-retired Judge Vaughan Walker is the only opinion left in the case. He declared Prop 8 unconstitutional, but serious legal questions remain, and more litigation may be on the horizon as a result.