Ruling on Same-Sex Marriage Could Affect NC Amendment

Ruling on Same-Sex Marriage Could Affect NC Amendment

7:31pm Mar 26, 2013
The U.S. Supreme Court is hearing arguments on same-sex marriage this week.
Brian Turner via WikiCommons

  This week the U-S Supreme Court is hearing arguments over same sex marriage.  Tuesday, the court heard arguments challenging Prop 8, the California state constitutional amendment that prevents the state from recognizing same-sex marriage.  
 
John Dinan, professor of politics at Wake Forest University, says the California amendment differs from North Carolina's.  The California Supreme Court recognized same-sex marriages in 2008, but six months later, Prop 8 took that recognition away.   Dinan says many of the justices' questions hinged on whether the defense could even bring the case before the court.
 
"One of the central questions that the Supreme Court will have to decide is what standard of review to apply to a law such as California's Prop 8, and to any laws that treat people differently based on sexual orientation," he says.  "Will they have a rational basis test, which merely asks the government 'give us any reason why you want to treat people differently and reserve marriage for opposite sex couples,' or the highest standard review, which would be strict scrutiny, as in 'give us a compelling reason why you have to treat people differently.'"
 
Dinan says it's difficult to draw conclusions about a Supreme Court ruling based on oral arguments, but he says there seemed to be a hesitation by the justices to make a ruling with the broadest impact.
 
"The decision that would have an effect on North Carolina's constitutional amendment passed in May, 2012, would be the most sweeping type of decision that would essentially hold that there's a federal constitutional right to same-sex marriage," says Dinan.  "If the U.S. Supreme Court would decide today's case in that most sweeping of fashion, it would affect North Carolina's amendment, and it would likely lead to the invalidation of North Carolina's amendment as well as all other state statutes or amendments that bar same-sex marriages."
 
Dinan says a more narrow outcome would pertain only to California's amendment - either to uphold or strike it down, although the justices may choose not to even make a ruling at all based on questions of standing.  Wednesday, the court will hear arguments on the federal Defense of Marriage Act.  Dinan says questions over standing will again likely arise, as the Obama administration has chosen not to defend the act.
 
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