CA Gov. Brown Could Teach NV Gov. Sandoval a Few Things

SACRAMENTO – Governor Edmund G. Brown Jr. today issued the following statement on the United States Supreme Court ruling on Proposition 8 (Hollingsworth v. Perry):

“After years of struggle, the U.S. Supreme Court today has made same-sex marriage a reality in California. In light of the decision, I have directed the California Department of Public Health to advise the state’s counties that they must begin issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples in California as soon as the Ninth Circuit confirms the stay is lifted,” said Governor Brown.

The effect of today’s U.S. Supreme Court ruling is that the 2010 federal district court’s decision that Proposition 8 is unconstitutional is left intact and the law cannot be enforced.

In response, the Governor has directed the California Department of Public Health to advise county officials today that the district court’s injunction against Proposition 8 applies statewide and that all county clerks and county registrar/recorders must comply with it. However, same-sex Californians will not be able to marry until the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals confirms the stay of the injunction, which has been in place throughout the appeals process, is lifted.

In preparation for this outcome, Governor Brown sought an opinion from California Attorney General Kamala D. Harris on whether the state, through the California Department of Public Health, can advise county clerks and registrar/recorders that they are bound by the federal district court’s ruling that Proposition 8 is unconstitutional.

The Attorney General concluded that the California Department of Public Health “can and should” instruct county officials that they “must resume issuing marriage licenses to and recording the marriages of same-sex” couples. The Department will issue another letter to county officials as soon as the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals confirms the stay is lifted.

The Department of Public Health letter to county officials can be found here.

The Attorney General’s letter to Governor Brown can be found here.

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Will the Supreme Court Say I Do?

Mar 25, 2013 | By ThinkProgress War Room

Supreme Court  Taking Up Historic Marriage Equality Cases

Tomorrow, the Supreme Court will hear arguments in the first of two historic cases dealing with marriage equality. Here’s what you need to know about these two cases and how the High Court could come down.

Case #1 (Tuesday): Hollingsworth v. Perry

At issue: California’s Proposition 8, the same-sex marriage ban approved by California voters in 2008. Listen to oral arguments here.

Legal Questions:

  • Is it unconstitutional under the 14th Amendment’s Equal Protection Clause for California to prohibit marriage equality?
  • California’s governor and attorney general stopped defending the measure several years ago, so a group of cities and Prop. 8 proponents stepped in to defend the law in their place. The Supreme Court must decide if it was even proper for this group to have been allowed to do so in the first place.

Possible Outcomes:

  • Marriage equality for everyone, everywhere
  • Marriage equality in some places now, everywhere else later. One route proposed by the Obama administration would result in marriage equality right now in California and other states that have civil union laws that are essentially marriage in everything but name. Legally speaking, if California’s ban is deemed unconstitutional, bans in other states would then also be difficult to defend. As the president said recently, he can’t think of any reason why any state’s ban should be valid.
  • Marriage equality just in California. The Court could tailor a narrow opinion that invalidates Prop. 8, but doesn’t really advance jurisprudence in a way that is particularly useful anywhere else.
  • Marriage equality in California, probably. The Court could use the second question about legal standing to dodge making a decision on the merits, which would leave the district court decision invalidating Prop. 8 in place. There are some unresolved questions about how this particular approach would play out.
  • No marriage equality in California, at least for now. The Court could reverse the lower courts and leave Prop. 8 in place. The only way it could then be undone is by voters through yet another ballot measure or in a future Supreme Court case heard by a more progressive Court. A poll out last week found that 61 percent of California’s now support marriage equality, making this route likely to succeed if also costly, time-consuming, and limited only to California.

For more details on how the Court could strike down Prop. 8, check out ThinkProgress’ legal analysis HERE.

Case #2 (Wednesday): United States v. Windsor

At Issue: The Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), the 1996 law that bars federal recognition of same-sex marriages.

Legal Questions:

  • Whether Section 3 of DOMA, the part of the law that bars the federal government from recognizing same-sex couples for purposes of taxation, federal benefits, and more than 1,000 other rights or responsibilities, violates the legal married same couples’ guarantees of equal protection under the Fifth Amendment.
  • As with the Prop. 8 case, there are technical legal questions about whether the Supreme Court is even allowed to hear the case. First, can the Court hear the case since the executive branch already agrees with lower courts that the law is unconstitutional? After the Department of Justice stopped defending the law, House Republicans took up the cause of defending discrimination and have spent millions of taxpayer dollars doing so. The Court must decide if House Republicans are allowed, legally speaking, to stand in for the executive branch.

Possible Outcomes:

  • Marriage equality for everyone. The Court could simply rule that DOMA is unconstitutional because everyone has a constitutional right to marry the partner of their choice.
  • Marriage equality in some places. The Court could strike down DOMA and allow legally married same-sex couples to receive the same federal benefits as straight couples, but not rule on whether there is a broader constitutional right to marriage equality. Depending on how strongly worded such a decision is, it could make it difficult to defend other anti-gay laws and state marriage bans. Another version of this outcome could be decided on the basis of the Tenth Amendment, but this would establish a highly unfortunate precedent that could be dangerous for the social safety net.
  • Muddled mess. If the Court decides that it lacks jurisdiction for either or both of the reasons mentioned above, nobody is quite sure what exactly will happen. It’s possible that DOMA could remain valid everywhere but New York and New England (the federal circuit courts where the challenges were initiated). Another theory says the Obama administration could refuse to enforce the law, but then that still leaves open the possibility that a future anti-gay President Rubio could revive the law.
  • No change. The Court could disagree with the various lower courts that invalidated DOMA and find it to be constitutional. In this case, the only ways to get rid of DOMA would be a future case before a less conservative Supreme Court or Congressional repeal of DOMA. Senators and members of the House have already introduced a bill, the Respect for Marriage Act, to accomplish the latter.

For more details on how the Court could dump DOMA, check out ThinkProgress’ legal analysis HERE.

Stay tuned: ThinkProgress reporters will be both inside and outside the Supreme Court tomorrow and we’ll be bringing you live updates.

Get Involved: Sign Our Brief Telling the Supreme Court to Dump DOMA

Our partners at the Center for American Progress signed onto a legal brief against DOMA. Will you support their brief by signing on, and say that you won’t stand for the unconstitutional discrimination against LGBT people?

Sign HERE to tell the Supreme Court that DOMA must go.

Evening Brief: Important Stories That You Might’ve Missed

This material [the article above] was created by the Center for American Progress Action Fund. It was created for the Progress Report, the daily e-mail publication of the Center for American Progress Action Fund. Click here to subscribe.

Supreme Court to Review DOMA

— by James Esseks, Director—ACLU LGBT Project

JamesEsseksThis is it — the Supreme Court marriage moment that the ACLU has been working towards for years. The Court announced today that it has granted review of the constitutionality of the Defense of Marriage Act in Edie Windsor’s case. The Court also took review of California’s Prop 8, so the full range of marriage issues will now be before the high court. These cases are poised not just to take down DOMA and Prop 8, but to be the next building blocks for LGBT equality more broadly.

Here’s why these cases are so important:

  • Ending explicit federal discrimination. DOMA requires the federal government to discriminate against married same-sex couples by treating them as legal strangers for purposes of all federal statutes and programs. It’s the last explicit federal declaration that gay people are inferior, which is reason enough to get rid of it.
  • Heightened scrutiny in the balance. The Windsor ruling that the Supreme Court will review included an important new protection — “heightened scrutiny” — by the courts. Under this standard, courts will presume that anti-gay discrimination by the government is unconstitutional and will require the government to have a good explanation for why it needs to discriminate against lesbians and gay men. While DOMA and Prop 8 should fail under any standard, if the Supreme Court adopts the heightened scrutiny standard, it would help eliminate anti-gay discrimination in many different contexts.
  • Showing the country that discrimination in marriage is wrong. Both Windsor and Perry make profound contributions to the public’s understanding of the freedom to marry. When two people make the commitment that’s at the heart of marriage, it’s profoundly unfair for the government to treat them as though they’re not a family.

The two cases both involve marriage for gay couples, but they actually present quite distinct issues. Edie Windsor is already married — she just wants to stop the federal government from treating her marriage differently from everyone else’s marriages. The plaintiffs in the Prop 8 case, on the other hand, want to get married. The ACLU has filed supportive briefs in Perry all along, and we’ve been working for decades — in courts, in legislatures, in ballot campaigns, and with the public — to help get the country, and the court, ready for this moment.

As the Court moves forward, it is worth retelling Edie’s story.

Edie Windsor and Thea Spyer became a couple in 1965 and had the courage to get engaged in 1967, when marriage for same-sex couples was just a fantasy. In 1977, Thea was diagnosed with progressive multiple sclerosis. Edie and Thea dealt together with the challenges of M.S. for the next 30-plus years.

The couple waited for years to be able to marry, and finally did so in 2007. In 2009, after 44 years together, Thea died.

Naturally Thea left her possessions, including the apartment they had shared for decades, to Edie. But while New York considered Edie and Thea married, DOMA required the federal government to treat them as legal strangers. So Edie was socked with a $363,000 federal estate tax bill that would have been $0 if she had been a straight widow.

If you haven’t seen the video telling Edie’s story, take a look, it’s quite moving.

Heartbroken at the injustice, Edie challenged the constitutionality of DOMA. Two lower federal courts have struck down DOMA in her case, and now the Supreme Court will have the final word.

We couldn’t have gotten here without the courage of Edie Windsor, our wonderful co-counsel in Edie’s case at Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison LLP and the Stanford Law School Supreme Court Litigation Clinic, and the support of advocates and members like you.