US Supreme Court Rules on Same Sex Marriages

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The rulings from the Supreme Court mean that same sex married couples in Washington will receive the same federal benefits as opposite sex married couples.

The Court found that the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) is unconstitutional in that it prevents same sex married couples who are lawfully married from receiving the same federal benefits as lawfully married heterosexual couples. The Court does not at this time say that same sex marriage is the law of the land, only that states can choose to find such marriages legal and once legal, those marriages are also equal for purposes of federal benefits. Washington is one of the states that has legalized same sex marriage. Therefore, married same sex couples are entitled to applicable federal benefits.

Additionally, the Court denied the appeal of the 9th Circuit ruling striking down California’s prohibition of same sex marriage. The appeal was denied on procedural grounds and means that the state government in California cannot prohibit same sex marriage. The Court did not hold that same sex marriage is a right, only that the Court could not decide the question, and that thus the 9th Circuit ruling striking down the prohibition must stand. This does not appear to have any direct impact on Washington.

These decisions indicate path and a direction; they do not settle all questions. We will continue to follow the impacts of these decisions.

About the Authors

Karen Kalzer

Ms. Kalzer practices employment and education law with an emphasis on defending complex litigation for communities of faith, non-profits, schools and private employers.

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