DOMA and Prop. 8: The real, passionate people behind the cases

June 26, 2013|By Patt Morrison

Supreme Court rulings have come down to us sounding like abstracts -- Brown vs. Board of Education, Dred Scott vs. Sandford.

But the cases involved real, passionate people pleading impassioned causes -- life-or-death causes in some instances -- that changed the way Americans live their lives.

The Proposition 8 and DOMA rulings were no exception. The name of the Proposition 8 case is Hollingsworth vs. Perry. Kristin Perry is a lesbian who, in 2009, was turned down for a California marriage license to wed her same-sex partner and parent of their four boys, Sandra Stier.

DECISION: Supreme Court overturns DOMA

Hollingsworth is Dennis Hollingsworth, the former Republican state senator whose name led the Protect Marriage group’s challenge to the lower federal court ruling that threw out Proposition 8.

On the day when two U.S. Supreme Court rulings effectively gutted the federal Defense of Marriage Act and California’s constitutional ban on same-sex marriage, there were two other names: Jo and Angela Hendrix. They’re a Long Beach lesbian couple expecting their first baby in a month’s time. They are legally married in New York; in California, they’re still unwed -- but not for long, they assured me, not with this court ruling.

I talked to them via Spreecast about the Supreme Court news -- the clock radio that woke them up at 6:45 a.m. to await the news, the flurry of phone calls and tweets with friends, although not with their families, who, as Angie says, are very religious and don’t condone their marriage.

DECISION: U.S. Supreme Court on Prop. 8

I also talked about the legal considerations of this with Erwin Chemerinsky. He’s the founding dean of the UC Irvine Law School and a noted constitutional scholar. He walked me and my viewers through the legal nuances of both the Proposition 8 case and the DOMA case. The Proposition 8 case turned on “standing” -- had the person defending the California ban on same-sex marriage actually been harmed by gay marriage, not just had his feelings hurt or his beliefs challenged? The court decided he had not.

And in DOMA, the widow of a lesbian spouse was stuck with a third-of-a-million-dollar estate tax because the U.S. government, including the IRS, did not recognize their marriage as lawful. The court there too decided that that woman, Edith Windsor, had been wrongly denied the tax status of a widow.

You can watch all of this video conversation above.


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