Many Court watchers think that the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) will be overturned in Windsor v. United States. We discussed the legal questions at issue in that case here, here, here, and, in general, here. When DOMA is tossed out, the federal government will be free to recognize the same-sex couples married in those states that recognize the freedom to marry. Those couples will be able to file joint tax returns and enjoy other tax benefits (and obligations) associated with marriage. American citizens in same-sex marriages with foreign nationals will be able to sponsor their spouses for visas. And federal employees in same-sex marriages will be able to extend their health care benefits to their spouses.
But what will happen to the hundreds of thousands of gay couples who are in registered civil unions or domestic partnerships? Precious few are talking about it this year, so let's begin the discussion.
In 8 states, civil unions are identical to marriage just without the word "marriage". In several other states, civil unions offer most of the state benefits of marriage and in most cases, civil unions or domestic partnerships are the only options open to gay couples wishing to affirm their unions in the eyes of the state. It is, however, not clear that an end to DOMA will mean that the federal government will start recognizing civil unions as marriages for federal purposes.
Groups which advocate for gay rights are preparing for the release of two Supreme Court rulings related to gay marriage.
The high court in March heard oral arguments in cases challenging the constitutionality of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), which prohibits federal agencies from recognizing the legal marriages of gay and lesbian couples, and Proposition 8, a voter-approved amendment to the California constitution which limits marriage to heterosexual unions.
The Human Rights Campaign (HRC), the nation's largest LGBT rights advocate, has already launched an online media hub dedicated to the cases. The group's Stand for Marriage page features background case information, possible court outcomes and a social media campaign.
The American Foundation for Equal Rights (AFER), which formed to file and support the Proposition 8 case, is promoting its Decision Day event, which is set to take place in Los Angeles at 5:30PM on the day the court rules.
Here is a wonderful story from Ellen. Ellen DeGeneres made one lucky lesbian military couple’s dreams come true on her talk show making their dream wedding and honeymoon happen for them.
The couple, active duty Air Force member Stephanie and former Marine Tracey, told Ellen that they first met and fell in love after meeting in a bar and that they have been working hard to save up for their wedding.
The couple originally won $1,000 from the app Viggle, which allows people to check in to TV shows for rewards, but Ellen, who is notorious for surprises, had bigger plans for the happy couple.
Watch the adorable couple's reaction below.
If you didn't have a crush on Britain's Prince Harry before, you will now that we know the royal and British Army Captain has a zero tolerance for homophobia in his ranks. According to Lance Corporal James Wharton, who served as one of battalion leader Harry's gunners in Afghanistan and who is the author of the new memoir, Out In The Army: My Life as a Gay Soldier, Harry took it upon himself to take down anti-gay soldiers who were tormenting, taunting, and threatening Wharton. This excerpt offers the details on what happened when Wharton's fellow soldiers found out he was gay and how Harry took them down a notch:
"This was turning into a bit of a situation. Danny told them everything he’d seen and to back off. Under huge pressure I went back to my vehicle to find Prince Harry.
‘Sir, I need to talk to you.’
‘Why? What’s up? Are you OK?’
Harry instantly looked concerned. I told him: ‘I think I’m about to be murdered by the infantry.’
I climbed into the turret and talked Harry through exactly what had happened. He had a complete look of bewilderment on his face.
Harry climbed out of the tank and started having a go. I worried he was about to make the whole thing worse, but he wasn’t holding back. Prince Harry was sticking up for me and putting a stop to the trouble. I had been on track for a battering and had been rescued.
He came back ten minutes later and told me the problem had been ‘sorted’.
He told me: ‘I knew one of his officers and we cleared everything up. I also told those other lads to back the f*** off, too.’"
If the name James Wharton is familiar to you, it's because Wharton was the first openly gay serviceman to appear on the magazine Soldier and subsequently went on to star in his own It Gets Better video.
A Denver bakery that refused to make a wedding cake for a gay couple is about to face the legal heat.
The Colorado Attorney General’s office last week filed a discrimination complaint against the owners of Masterpiece Cakeshop, who last year declined to make a cake for Denver couple Dave Mullins and Charlie Craig, the Associated Press reports. The couple had their marriage ceremony in Massachusetts and wanted the cake for a hometown celebration with family and friends.
Jack Phillips, one of the owners of Masterpiece Cakeshop, had cited his Christian beliefs in refusing the men’s business. “We would close down the bakery before we compromised our beliefs,” Phillips told a television interviewer last summer. To another couple who sought to place an order, he reportedly said making a cake for a same-sex wedding would be like making one for a pedophile celebration.
And just recently, a lesbian couple who had been turned away by Masterpiece Cakeshop when they tried to order cupcakes for their commitment ceremony undertook the experiment of calling the bakery to order a cake for a dog wedding — an order the shopkeepers happily accepted. A newspaper in Oregon had done a similar experiment with a bakery there that had turned down a same-sex couple’s request, finding the business was willing to provide cakes for divorce celebrations and pagan observances.
Mark Silverstein, legal director for the Colorado chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union, which initiated the complaint process for Mullins and Craig, told the AP he respects the bakery owners’ right to their religious beliefs, “but someone’s personal religious beliefs don’t justify breaking the law by discriminating against others in the public sphere.”
Phillips’s lawyer, Nicolle Martin, countered that the case is about “conscience” rather than “commerce,” adding, “I just don’t think that we should heighten one person’s beliefs over and above another person’s beliefs.”
The Colorado Civil Rights Commission is scheduled to hear the case in September.
As LGBT Americans await the U.S. Supreme Court’s rulings on the Defense of Marriage Act and Proposition 8, nearly three quarters of Americans (72%) believe the legalization of same-sex marriage is “inevitable,” according to a new poll released by the Pew Research Center.
This includes the opinions of both 85% of supporters and 59% of those who oppose marriage equality.
The national survey was conducted May 1-5 among 1,504 people and found for the first time in the history of Pew Research polling that over half of Americans (51%) believe same-sex marriage should be legal.
However, Pew researchers note the issue is still a divisive one. Some 42% of those polled said they opposed marriage equality, and 45% believe homosexual acts are sinful, while an equal number does not.
Nevertheless, the new poll highlights a positive shift in public attitudes toward LGBT people over the past decade in several areas, including the fact that 60% of Americans now say homosexuality should be accepted rather than condemned, as compared to 31% in a 2003 poll.