Politics

December 8, 2012

Both sides in Maine look forward to Supreme Court action

The justices' move to take up gay marriage could have a major impact in other states like Maine.

By Edward D. Murphy emurphy@pressherald.com
Staff Writer

Both sides in the campaign that led to Maine's vote Nov. 6 to allow same-sex marriage said Friday that they are eager to see the U.S. Supreme Court weigh in on the issue.

The court said Friday that it will review two lower-court rulings on gay and lesbian marriages.

In one case, it will determine the constitutionality of the Defense of Marriage Act, which denies federal benefits such as Social Security survivor payments to same-sex spouses.

In the other, the court will review a ruling that overturned the vote in California that repealed that state's brief period of court-ordered legal same-sex marriages.

"Obviously, this is an important step in the process of making sure the relationships of loving, committed people are recognized," said David Farmer, who led Mainers United For Marriage, the largest organized group behind last month's vote to legalize gay and lesbian marriage in Maine. "This is a necessary next step."

Bob Emrich, the leader of Protect Marriage Maine, which opposed same-sex marriage, also said it was inevitable that the issue would end up before the Supreme Court. "It's not a big surprise," he said.

Emrich said the case involving the Defense of Marriage Act validates one of the opponents' arguments: that without federal recognition of same-sex marriages, it doesn't matter if Maine legalized them.

Unless the Supreme Court finds the Defense of Marriage Act unconstitutional, he said, Maine's recognition of same-sex marriage won't change much because it won't affect dozens of benefits or force other states to recognize Maine marriages of same-sex couples.

The second case could have an impact if the court rules that voters in California shouldn't have been allowed to take away a right that had been extended by the courts.

"I can't imagine how they can overturn the vote of the people in California," Emrich said. "I'm hopeful they will uphold the vote in California, reinforcing the people's rights as we understand them."

A ruling that restricts the ability of voters to override same-sex marriage laws could scuttle a possible effort to mount another vote in Maine, Emrich said.

Farmer said he hopes that the Supreme Court will overturn the Defense of Marriage Act and find that it "oversteps federal bounds" by interfering with the states' role in setting marriage laws.

He said such a ruling would leave same-sex marriages intact where they exist, without forcing other states to allow them.

"This is an important step and a major step," Farmer said of the court's decision to take up the issue.

Staff Writer Edward D. Murphy can be contacted at 791-6465 or at:

emurphy@pressherald.com

 

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