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Same-Sex Marriage: U.S. Supreme Court to Hear Constitutional Challenges

The U.S. Supreme Court agreed to decide two constitutional challenges involving same-sex marriages. These decisions will undoubtedly have an effect on family law practice.

The first challenge, Hollingsworth v. Perry, asks whether the U.S. Constitution's 14th Amendment bars California from defining marriage as between a man and a woman. The second challenge, U.S. v. Windsor, raises the question of whether Section 3 of the federal Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) violates the equal-protection guarantee of the Fifth Amend¬ment as applied to same-sex couples who are legally married under their state laws.

However, the Court has indicated there may be procedural issues potentially blocking their ability to reach the merits of each case. In Perry, concerned with California's passage of Proposition 8, the justices directed the parties to brief and argue whether they even had standing to appeal the lower court's judgment. Similarly, in Windsor, it must be established that the justices have the jurisdiction to decide the case in light of DOMA and whether the Bipartisan Legal Advisory Group has standing.

Assuming the Court will have standing on both issues, the resulting opinions will be a defining moment in Constitutional Law and in turn, Family Law. Argument has yet to be scheduled, be developments in both cases can be found on the SCOTUS Blog: Perry & Windsor.

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