For the last couple of decades as well as for the foreseeable future, gay marriage will continue to be a hotly contended issue in the United States. Setting aside the personal feelings though, what does the ongoing legal battle between the camps mean for real-life people? For better or worse, already blurred legislative and judicial lines have become more fuzzy due to the heavily publicized recent U.S. Supreme Court cases of Hollingsworth v. Perry (2013) and United States v. Windsor (2013).
- Hollingsworth v. Perry (2013) turned on the fact that the case’s proponents had no legal standing to present their case. Essentially, what this decision did was to uphold the previous decision of a U.S. district court, which stated that California’s Proposition 8 ban of gay marriage was unconstitutional according to the 14th Amendment’s definition of equal rights. So, for the states who have adopted laws legalizing gay marriage, their laws are now considered valid.
- The case of United States v. Windsor (2013) revolved around Section 3 of the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act, which barred same-sex spouses from utilizing federal marriage benefits. Section 3 was found to be unconstitutional on the basis that it violated the Due Process Clause of the Fifth Amendment by depriving a person of life, liberty, or property without due process of law. Beyond previously noted state validation, this ruling forced the federal government to afford same-sex marriages the same federal rights and benefits as heterosexual couples.
This rulings have certainly helped to change the dynamics of the argument. However, as stated before, the issue of gay marriage is still far from being decided. While there are currently 13 states (and the District of Columbia) which legally allow gay marriage and 8 states where same-sex unions, such as civil partnerships, are permitted, a majority of states (38) define marriage as a union between a man and a woman, and of those 38, a further 32 currently have state constitutional amendments which ban same-sex unions. All things considered, this creates a hectic and, understandably, confusing scenario for supporters and opponents of same-sex unions of any kind.
But what is beyond doubt is that the Supreme Court touched a key section of the Defense of Marriage Act / DOMA by giving the right to same-sex couples to apply for their foreign-born partners to join them in the United States. After the Supreme Court decision, the Department of Homeland Security stated that Immigration Services would now review visa applications for same-sex couples the same way it does for straight spouses. This recent Supreme Court decision will affect more than 26,000 same-sex and binational couples.
While this is certainly not the end of the gay rights struggle, it is an important step. If you are preparing your civil union or immigration documents, EVS Translations will gladly help you with the process.
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