The U.S. Supreme Court announced its decisions today for two cases addressing same-sex marriage. Supporters of gay marriage are calling them significant but incomplete. Supporters of traditional marriage are calling it tragic, but not a total loss for supporters of states’ rights. The Court ruled that the federal government must respect state definitions of marriage, meaning that the federal government must recognize a state’s definition of marriage.
The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) stated, “The common good of all, especially our children, depends upon a society that strives to uphold the truth of marriage. Now is the time to redouble our efforts in witness to this truth. These decisions are part of a public debate of great consequence. The future of marriage and the well-being of our society hang in the balance.”
What did the court rule?
As reported by the Catholic News Service, the federal Defense of Marriage Act, or DOMA, defining marriage as between one man and one woman is unconstitutional under the Equal Protection Clause, the Supreme Court ruled June 26 in a 5-4 opinion.
In a separate case, the court sent back to lower courts a challenge to California’s Proposition 8, the voter-approved initiative barring same-sex marriage. In this second 5-4 ruling, with a different lineup of justices, the court remanded the case back to the lower federal courts, saying the individuals who defended the law in court lacked legal standing to do so.
Neither decision will have the effect of requiring states to honor same-sex marriages from other jurisdictions, but the DOMA case likely will affect how the federal government must treat same-sex marriages for purposes ranging from Social Security benefits to taxation.
The case to uphold DOMA was taken up by a group of members of Congress, known as the Bipartisan Legal Advisory Group of the U.S. House of Representatives.
What do the rulings mean for Pennsylvania?
The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops and a number of organizations opposed to same-sex marriage had urged the court to issue rulings that upheld the traditional definition of marriage.
In 32 states, constitutional amendments ban same-sex marriage, while 12 states and the District of Columbia recognize such marriages. Another eight states recognize civil unions or domestic partnerships, with some having overlapping bans on same-sex marriage.
Pennsylvania law defines marriage as the union of one man and one woman and does not recognize “marriages” from other jurisdictions that do not meet that definition. The Supreme Court’s ruling today does not challenge this law, nor does it protect it necessarily.
The Pennsylvania Catholic Conference (PCC) is a strong proponent of keeping the definition of marriage as one man and one woman. It is the only institution that unites a man and a woman with each other and with any child who comes from their union.
Where can I learn more?