Opponents of same-sex marriage are bracing themselves for a veritable tidal wave of new legal challenges to laws in 36 states that do not recognize the marriages of gay and lesbian couples. Emboldened by the Supreme Court’s decision striking down key parts of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) — a federal law restricting government marriage benefits to heterosexual couples — lawyers for the LGBT community are citing the court’s majority opinion as a legal basis for throwing out similar laws on the state level.
Leading the charge is the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), which has filed suits inPennsylvania and North Carolina, and has plans to file a suit in Virginia as well. Unlike previous marriage equality lawsuits alleging violations of an specific state’s constitution, and culminating in the supreme court of that state, these suits allege violations of the United States Constitution, meaning that they could eventually make their way to the Supreme Court of the United States. This is a big deal. By opening up the floodgates for federal litigation against state marriage laws, the DOMA decision puts considerable pressure on the states to enact legal reforms — or face the strong possibility that reforms would be imposed upon them by the Supreme Court itself — making the prospect of national marriage equality greater now than ever before.
Anyone who has followed the DOMA case has heard by now that the ruling will have far-reaching implications, but most of us aren’t quite why that is, legally speaking. The ruling, which mandates that all officially recognized marriages be treated equally under the law, has immediate legal ramifications for only the 12 states that already allow same-sex marriages. Then there’s this: The Supreme Court ruled part of DOMA unconstitutional for violating the Fifth Amendment, but the ACLU and others are citing the decision as grounds to do away with similar laws, in the states, for violating the Fourteenth Amendment. How does proving that a federal law violates one part of the constitution help prove that a state law violates a different part of the constitution?
via After DOMA, 36 States Will Have Little Choice On Gay Marriage.