Haas Institute Statement on Marriage Equality Decisions

June 26, 2013

Supreme Court Removes Barriers to LGBTQ Equality

Today the Supreme Court handed down two victories for marriage equality, striking down a federal law that denied equal treatment to individuals in same-sex marriages and leaving in place a holding that found a same-sex marriage ban in California unconstitutional.

The Haas Institute applauds the Court’s historic decision in United States v. Windsor, which found the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) is unconstitutional because it has both the purpose and effect to “disparage and to injure” individuals in lawful same-sex marriages. The ruling will require the Federal Government to provide equal treatment to all individuals who are lawfully married, including those in same-sex partnerships. As Justice Kennedy explained, “DOMA singles out a class of persons” and “imposes a disability on the class by refusing to acknowledge” their marital status. Thus the Court held that DOMA is an unconstitutional “deprivation of the liberty of the person protected by the Fifth Amendment.”

In Hollingsworth v. Perry, the Court left in place the trial court’s holding that Proposition 8, which banned same-sex marriage in California, is unconstitutional. The Court did not reach the merits of the case because it found that the Petitioners, supporters of Proposition 8, lacked standing to appeal the trial court’s decision striking down the ban. While the Court did not rule on the constitutionality of Proposition 8, the likely effect of the ruling is to legalize same-sex marriage in California. The Court ordered the Ninth Circuit to dismiss an appeal by supporters of the gay marriage ban and Governor Jerry Brown has already instructed officials to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples once the Ninth Circuit acts, making California the 13th State to sanction same-sex marriages.

While we recognize the limited scope of these rulings to states already recognizing same-sex marriage, we are hopeful that additional advocacy, legislation and litigation will assure the rights of all persons to live their identities and make their own free choices regarding love, commitment and union. This is a great day for the LGBTQ community and for all Americans. It moves us one step closer to becoming a fair and inclusive society.

The ideas expressed on the Haas Institute blog are not necessarily those of UC Berkeley or the Division of Equity & Inclusion, where the Haas Institute website is hosted. They are not official and not of one mind. Thoughts here are those of individual authors. We are committed to academic freedom, free speech and civil liberties.