Case law
1 min

Listen to the US Supreme Court DOMA arguments

Earlier this week, US Supreme Court justices heard arguments for and against California’s Proposition 8 and the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA).

On March 26, the court debated the 2008 law that amended California’s state constitution to say that gay people are banned from getting married. 

Then on March 27, the court heard oral arguments regarding DOMA.

Individual states have jurisdiction over who is and is not married, but under DOMA the American federal government denies gay couples the benefits that heterosexual couples receive.

However, much like Prop 8, President Obama’s government does not believe in DOMA and refuses to defend the law. House Republicans, under Speaker John Boehner, are defending DOMA with taxpayers’ money.

A somewhat unlikely supporter of same-sex marriage has emerged in the form of octogenarian Associate Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg.

“No state loses any benefits by recognizing same-sex marriage. Things stay the same,” said lawyer Paul Clement, arguing against same-sex marriage. “What they don’t do is they don’t sort of open up an additional class of beneficiaries under their state law that get additional federal benefits. But things stay the same, and that’s why in this sense –”

“They’re not a question of additional benefits,” Bader Ginsburg interjected. “I mean, they touch every aspect of life. Your partner is sick. Um, social security. I mean, it’s pervasive. It’s not as though, ‘Oh well, there’s this little federal sphere and it’s only a tax question.’ It affects every area of life. And so you are really diminishing what the state has said is marriage. You’re saying, ‘No, state said two kinds of marriages: the full marriage and then this sort of skim-milk marriage.”

Then Associate Justice Elena Kagan, who some have speculated is queer herself, caused observers to gasp by simply reading a House report from 1996 regarding DOMA.

“Congress decided to reflect an honour, a collective moral judgment and to express moral disapproval of homosexuality. Is that what happened in 1996?”

Listen to the full March 27 arguments below.

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