How Have the Courts Threatened Marriage?
Marriage is being threatened in the courts through a series of decisions that seek to overthrow the customs, laws, and social norms of human experience.
In 1993, the Hawaii Supreme Court declared that the state’s existing marriage statute was a form of "sex discrimination" that could be justified only by a "compelling state interest." Three years later, a Hawaii trial court ruled that the state’s marriage law violated the Hawaii constitution. In response, the people of Hawaii amended their state constitution to allow the legislature to reserve marriage to opposite-sex couples, and the legislature passed a Marriage Protection Act that defined marriage as the union between one man and one woman.
- Current Status of Marriage in Hawaii
- Baehr v. Miike (Baehr II), 994 P.2d 566 (Haw. 1999) (unpublished)
- At Last, Hawaiians Have Their Say on Gay Marriage
In 1996, in the face of this unprecedented circumstance, the United States Congress passed a bipartisan federal Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), signed by then-President Bill Clinton, that both defines marriage "for all purposes of federal law" as the union of one man and one woman and clarifies that the effect portion of the "Full Faith and Credit" clause of the U.S. Constitution does not require that states be forced to recognize as a marriage any union other than that of one man and one woman.
- Text of Federal DOMA
- House Report on the Defense of Marriage Act
In 1998, a superior court judge in Alaska declared that "the choice of a life partner is personal, intimate, and subject to the protection of the right to privacy" and ruled that the Alaska marriage statute violated the state constitution. In response, Alaska voters approved a constitutional amendment to define marriage as the union of one man and one woman.
In 1999, the Vermont Supreme Court ruled that the legislature must grant full and equal benefits of marriage to same-sex couples, and the Vermont legislature was forced to pass an extensive "civil unions" law that provides virtually all protections and benefits afforded to civil marriage.
In 2003, the U.S. Supreme Court held in Lawrence v. Texas that homosexuals, like heterosexuals, have the right to "seek autonomy" in their relationships and cited "personal decisions relating to marriage" as an important area of that autonomy. The Court also noted that whether a majority of the public opposes "a particular practice as immoral is not a sufficient reason for upholding a law prohibiting the practice."
In November 2003, seizing upon the premise dangled before it by the U.S. Supreme Court in Lawrence v. Texas, a divided Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court ruled 4-3 that homosexual couples are legally entitled to marriage under the Massachusetts state constitution.
The court decided that traditional marriage "is rooted in persistent prejudices" and "works a deep and scarring hardship on a very real segment of the community for no rational reason." Marriage is "a caste-like system," added the concurrence, defended by nothing more than a "mantra of tradition."
The court did give the state legislature 180 days or until May 17, 2004 to act, as it deemed appropriate.
The legislature responded and passed a constitutional amendment to preserve the traditional understanding of marriage, but the measure must be voted on by the next legislature before it goes to the people as a ballot measure.
Therefore same-sex marriage became legal on May 17, 2004. Within the first week, the Boston Globe reported that, nearly 2,500 same-sex couples from 27 states and the District of Columbia were married.