Today's Gay Marriage Case Just Became A Lot More Important

Gay marriage supporters Supreme CourtGay marriage supporters hold signs outside of the U.S. Supreme Court in Washington, March 26, 2013.

Now that it looks like the U.S. Supreme Court may not issue a ruling on California’s gay marriage ban, the fight over an anti-gay federal law is more important than ever.

On Tuesday, the court heard arguments on California’s Proposition 8, and today it will consider a challenge to the Clinton-era defence of Marriage Act, which denies federal benefits to same-sex couples.

Several of the Supreme Court’s justices indicated Tuesday they wouldn’t issue a ruling on California’s Proposition 8 — which would effectively leave in place a court ruling that overturned the ban.

While no ruling at all would let gays marry in California, Prop 8 opponents were hoping for a “50-state solution” that would have found that gays in every state had a Constitutional right to marry. A broad ruling like that would effectively do away with the DOMA too.

No broad ruling on Prop 8 would make DOMA more important than ever.

By striking down DOMA, the court could broaden the rights of gay couples in the nine states where same-sex marriage is already legal. They could, for example, get the federal tax breaks same-sex couples get.

Edith Windsor, the plaintiff challenging DOMA, brought her case because she had to pay $363,000 in estate taxes when her wife died that a straight spouse wouldn’t have had to pay.

The section of DOMA at issue defines marriage as a union between a man and a woman for federal law purposes.

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