The New York Times reports that the United States Supreme Court, in a pair of 5-4 decisions, handed two victories on Constitutional principles to the gay and lesbian community. First, in the case of Hollingsworth v. Perry, the Court declined to rule on the merits of the constitutionality of Proposition 8. In determining the plaintiffs lacked standing to appeal the ruling, the Court vacated the Appeals Courts’ judgment and remanded with an order to dismiss. The net effect of this will be that the District Court’s ruling will stand, with gay marriage set to resume in California, and only California, in about a month. In that case, the Government of California declined to appeal a district ruling throwing out Prop 8. Accordingly, private groups intervened on the plaintiffs’ behalf. The Court ruled this was not acceptable.
The other case, United States of America v. Windsor, has the larger effect, especially upon Texas and the rest of the country. In that case, two women were legally married by the Commonwealth of Massachusetts’ laws, but under the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), their marriage was not recognized by the Federal Government. When one of the spouses died, her widow has not able to be exempted from Estate Taxation under federal statutes. She sued the United States in federal court. A few years later, the Supreme Court issued this ruling.
First, like the Hollingsworth case, the Court had to determine whether there was standing to appeal both the District and Appeals Court decisions in this case. Representing the United States in this case, originally, was the Obama administration. However, soon after President Obama had his change of heart, stopped being an intolerant, homophobic bigot and entered the 21st century, the administration stopped defending the law. Picking up the slack was the legal counsel for the Republican controlled House of Representatives. The court ruled this was OK.
Next, ruling on the merits, the Court held 5-4 (Kennedy joining the liberals) that Section 3 of DOMA is unconstitutional. Section 3, for those who are not familiar, is the provision which allows the Federal Government to not recognize same-sex couples legally married in their respective states, and therefore deny them federal benefits of marriage (like filing a joint tax return).
This all seems simple enough, except it has some profound implications for the entire country, including this State. If a couple, legally married in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, moves to Texas, may they continue filing joint income tax returns? Will the Federal Government continue recognizing them as married even though their new State does not? These are questions for future litigation.
In an interesting local twist to this big national issue, the issue has made its way into relevance to this year’s Mayoral election. The Houston Chronicle reports that Mayor Parker made extensive comments about the ruling, lauding the court, and commending the progress which has occurred in the nation. The Parker also was extremely politically active on Wendy Davis’ filibuster, including hosting a watch party, which I had the pleasure of attending.
Parker’s campaign is attempting to make an issue out of the fact that Ben Hall is not commenting on these issues. They even attempt to coin a phrase on these laconic actions, “Strange Silence.” I am split over whether or not I agree with them that this should be an issue. On one hand, like I’ve been saying for nearly a year, Mayor Parker has gone completely, unapologetically liberal. “Gone Bullworth,” as the capitol insiders call it. I really like this type of Mayor, but recognize that not everyone does that. Mayor White would never make a statement on one of these things, and I really liked his Mayoralty. It’s just a different style.
Accordingly, I’m not going to “deduct points” from Hall for declining to comment on these topics. Besides, Parker hasn’t always been the best about keeping up with national trends. Abortion and gay marriage have absolutely nothing to do with what the Mayor does, although germaneness hasn’t stopped Hall from bringing up issues before (Education, anyone?). That being said, I am happy that Parker has involved herself in the issues. Let’s focus on the national issue.