Integrity Legal

Posts Tagged ‘Supreme Court’

25th June 2013

It has come to this blogger’s attention that the United States Supreme Court is poised to hand down decisions in two cases in which the question of Federal recognition of same sex marriage is at issue. The first case involves one Edith Windsor, a woman from New York who was compelled to pay 363,000 United States Dollars after her same sex spouse, one Thea Spyer, died. Notwithstanding the fact that Spyer and Windsor were legally married, the fact that said marriage was apparently recognized under the laws of the State of New York, and the fact that a different-sex couple in the same situation would likely have been accorded a tax deduction regarding such estate taxes the United States government fails to recognize the couple’s marriage pursuant to the provisions of the so-called Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) and therefore Mrs. Windsor was not granted similar tax benefits as compared to a different-sex widow. Meanwhile, the United States Supreme Court is also expected to hand down a ruling regarding the Constitutionality of a ballot initiative called Proposition 8 in the State of California which made same sex marriage illegal. This ballot measure followed closely upon the heels of a Court decision in that State which called for the legalization of gay marriage.

Section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act reads as follows:

“In determining the meaning of any Act of Congress, or of any ruling, regulation, or interpretation of the various administrative bureaus and agencies of the United States, the word ‘marriage’ means only a legal union between one man and one woman as husband and wife, and the word ‘spouse’ refers only to a person of the opposite sex who is a husband or a wife.”

The upshot of this provision is that the United States Federal government refuses to recognize same sex marriages even where the marriage was legalized, solemnized, and/or celebrated in a State which explicitly recognizes such unions. Many scholars and experts on the Supreme Court theorize that the Court may issue a narrow opinion in the two cases cited above, but that the Court may also strike down section 3 of DOMA thereby requiring, or so it could be inferred, that the United States Federal goverment recognize such marriages and accord them the same benefits as different sex couples. This would be something of a narrow decision because many feel that section two of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) may not be struck down in these decisions. Section 2 of DOMA reads as follows:

“No State, territory, or possession of the United States, or Indian tribe, shall be required to give effect to any public act, record, or judicial proceeding of any other State, territory, possession, or tribe respecting a relationship between persons of the same sex that is treated as a marriage under the laws of such other State, territory, possession, or tribe, or a right or claim arising from such relationship.”

Should the Supreme Court hand down a relatively narrow opinion in these cases and should they strike down only Section 3 of DOMA (which should not necessarily be viewed as a foregone conclusion), then it seems logical to assume that the practical outcome would be that same sex couples could be only accorded benefits arising from their marriage in the State in which the marriage was legalized, and possibly those other States which also recognize such unions; and at the Federal level. States which do not recognize same sex marriage may not be compelled to do so if section two is not struck down.

In the context of United States Immigration: as American immigration benefits, such as US visas, are Federal benefits it seems logical to surmise that if section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act is repealed, then same sex bi-national couples may become eligible for immigration benefits similar to those of their different-sex counterparts. Therefore, an American citizen who has a same-sex fiance might be able to obtain a K-1 visa if the couple has the intention of getting married in one of those States which allow same-sex marriage. Furthermore, the same-sex spouse of an American Citizen or lawful permanent resident may become eligible to apply for lawful permanent residence as a result of the decision to overturn section 3 of DOMA. This remains speculation at this time as the Supreme Court has yet to hand down their decision and the various agencies tasked with adjudicating immigration matters will likely require an interval of time in order to update relevant regulations so as to comply with a possible Supreme Court decision; but there appears to be at least some hope on the horizon that same sex marriage and the immigration benefits which could be granted as a result of Federal recognition of such unions may become a legal reality.

For related information please see: DOMA or Full Faith and Credit Clause.

 

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23rd August 2011

It recently came to this blogger’s attention that the Obama Administration’s Department of Justice has apparently filed a memorandum noting un-Constitutional discrimination imposed pursuant to the provisions of section 3 of the so-called “Defense of Marriage Act” (DOMA). In order to provide further insight this blogger is compelled to quote directly from the official website of Instinct Magazine, InstinctMagazine.com:

President Obama’s Department of Justice filed a memo in support of Edie Windsor’s case against the “Defense of Marriage Act” on Friday, marking the second time the Administration has officially stated its opposition to the discriminatory law.

Windsor, who was subjected to unjust federal taxes after her partner of 44-years passed away in 2007, filed a lawuit challenging DOMA. Last week, the DOJ added its weight of support to her claims.

Written in the memo:

Section 3 of DOMA unconstitutionally discriminates. Section 3 treats same-sex couples who are legally married under their states’ laws differently than similarly situated opposite-sex couples, denying them the status, recognition, and significant federal benefits otherwise available to married persons. Under well-established factors set forth by the Supreme Court to guide the determination whether heightened scrutiny applies to a classification that singles out a particular group, discrimination based on sexual orientation merits heightened scrutiny. Under this standard of review, Section 3 of DOMA is unconstitutional.

But the DOJ states in the brief:

-DOMA is discriminatory

-Sexual orientation is an immutable characteristic

-Anti-gay discrimination on religious grounds is unconstitutional

-LGBTs make good parents

-DOMA is harmful to children…

The administration of this web log encourages readers to click upon the relevant hyperlinks above to learn more from this interesting article.

As DOMA is currently interpreted and enforced by the American government same sex married couples cannot obtain immigration and visa benefits such as a K-1 visa, a CR-1 visa, or an IR-1 visa. This current state of affairs may contravene notions of Full Faith and Credit as enshrined in the United States Constitution’s Full Faith and Credit Clause. However, as there has yet to be a final resolution in the US Courts on the matter and as the United States Congress has yet to pass legislation such as the Respect for Marriage Act or the Uniting American Families Act the ultimate fate of same sex bi-national couples in America remains to be seen.

In news related to the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN which includes the following jurisdictions: Brunei Darussalam, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Myanmar, Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, Malaysia, and Vietnam), it recently came to this blogger’s attention that there are those noting the possibility of further ASEAN economic progress in the coming months and years. In order to provide further information on these issues it is necessary to quote directly from the website of the Bangkok Post, BangkokPost.com:

CIMB Thai Bank is developing an infrastructure base to cope with greater business opportunities offered by the Asean Economic Community (AEC) in 2015, said chief finance executive Narongchai Wongthanavimok. Its major shareholder, CIMB Group, expects the AEC will increase deals in the region. The group has a strong network across Asean that can support CIMBT’s expansion in the region. The bank developed a core banking system and improved its financial support to cope with international transactions, he said. The Malaysia-based CIMB Group has the largest branch network in Asean with 1,105 subsidiaries across Malaysia, Singapore, Indonesia and Thailand. It also has plans for branches in Cambodia, India and Sri Lanka. The financial group is helmed by people from the region and it reaches 81% of the Asean population, representing 89% of the region’s gross domestic product…

This blogger asks readers to click upon the hyperlinks above to view this insightful article in detail.

One could infer from the information above that the increasing economic integration of ASEAN and the emergence of the Asean Economic Community (AEC) may result in further economic benefits for the jurisdictions which comprise the organization and region. As noted above, the ramifications of these developments could have implications for economies such as those of India and Sri Lanka since the increasing business and trade occurring in Southeast Asia could “spillover” into those nations. Meanwhile, discussion pertaining to an ASEAN visa have yet to result in the creation of a tangible unified ASEAN travel document. How all of the developments noted above will evolve over time and the ultimate fate of ASEAN’s economy remains to be seen, but there is clearly a trend of increasing optimism regarding the future of Southeast Asia’s economy.

For information related to legal services in Southeast Asia please see: Legal.

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8th March 2011

In what could possibly be one of the most convoluted political and legal issues currently in the American zeitgeist it has been reported by various sources that President Barack Obama is under pressure from many different groups regarding his recent decision not to enforce key provisions of the so-called “Defense of Marriage Act” (DOMA). To quote directly from an article posted on AfricaOnline.com:

Former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich suggested last week that President Obama overstepped his constitutional bounds when he announced he would no longer defend Defense of Marriage Act in court.

In matters pertaining to United States Constitutional law the lines between the political and legal spheres begin to blur and for this reason the issues surrounding what may be the most interesting legal situation in recent history are difficult to sort out for those who have not kept up with the evolving posture of this issue. To provide a brief summation: the United States Federal government is currently barred from recognizing marriages between same-sex couples pursuant to the provisions of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA). Meanwhile, 7 jurisdictions in the United States, including 6 sovereign States, currently license same sex unions. Meanwhile, many sovereign American States have promulgated State Constitutional amendments forbidding recognition of marriage between same sex couples. Currently, there is a case that has been adjudicated by the Massachusetts Federal District Court which found that States have a fundamental right to marry those within their jurisdiction. Amongst advocates of States’ Rights, the significant issue in the DOMA cases is: FEDERAL recognition of same sex marriages legalized and solemnized within the States’ jurisdiction. To continue quoting Mr. Gingrich according to AfricaOnline.com:

“Imagine that Governor Palin had become president,” Gingrich said. “Imagine that she had announced that Roe versus Wade in her view was unconstitutional and therefore the United States government would no longer protect anyone’s right to have an abortion because she personally had decided it should be changed. The news media would have gone crazy. The New York Times would have demanded her impeachment.”

For those unfamiliar with the Roe versus Wade decision, this was the Supreme Court case which allowed women to receive abortions based upon an interpretation of the US Constitution. It is interesting that Mr. Gingrich noted the lack of “Mainstream Media” attention to this issue as there are those who could argue that the issue of equal rights for the LGBT community is an issue often overlooked by major media outlets. Clearly, the issue of same sex marriage is provoking strong reaction from various sectors of the American political spectrum, to quote directly from the website ThinkProgress.org:

Now, in the right’s furor over the administration’s announcement that it will not defend the constitutionality of Section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), Rep. Trent Franks (R-AZ) is calling for Obama to be impeached.

After the Arizona Republican advocated defunding the Department of Justice if it does not defend Section 3 of DOMA – “I would support that in a moment,” remarked Franks – he went on to say that he would “absolutely” favor impeaching President Obama and Attorney General Eric Holder if such a move “could gain collective support”…

It would appear as though this issue is causing a great deal of political turmoil for Mr. Obama, but what is even more interesting are the underlying issues at stake for both the LGBT community and the sovereign States which comprise the United States of America.

To be clear, this blogger fully believes that the right to marry whomever one chooses to marry is a fundamental inalienable right and equal protection of that right should be accorded to members of the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender (LGBT) community. In this blogger’s personal opinion, if two people wish to consensually enter into a marital union, then their respective genders should not be relevant for purposes of government recognition of that union. However, there is an even stronger argument in favor of requiring Federal recognition of same sex marriage and this argument stems from the fact that 6 states have allowed some form of same sex union (civil union or marriage). Clearly, States have traditionally been vested with the power to solemnize and legalize marriages within their respective jurisdictions and the Federal government should be required to recognize such unions, but the provisions of DOMA preclude such recognition. For example, same sex bi-national couples who have legalized a marriage in, say, Massachusetts cannot be accorded the same immigration benefits as their different-sex counterparts pursuant to the provisions of DOMA. There has been some discussion of legislation such as the Uniting American Families Act (UAFA) which would rectify this problem in the context of United States immigration, but this still leaves a fundamental question unanswered: when did the Federal government get the right to dictate to the States what shall constitute a marriage?

As to the Obama Administration’s decision to not pursue cases in support of the Defense of Marriage Act: the sentiment is laudable, but ultimately this action may not be in the best interests of the LGBT community as such inaction results in fewer, if any, cases or controversies coming before the Supreme Court thereby removing the platform for the Supreme Court to make a broad binding decision regarding the Defense of Marriage Act itself (and possibly the overall issue of same sex marriage in general), the Full Faith and Credit Clause, and the other legal issues, such as discrimination against same sex bi-national couples, which come “part and parcel” with continued enforcement of the Defense of Marriage Act.

It is this blogger’s personal opinion that the United States Supreme Court will find in favor of recognition of same sex marriage, but in what could prove to be a sort of convoluted decision wherein Justices such as Scalia, Thomas, and Roberts find in favor of the right of the States to set policy regarding who can get married within their jurisdiction while the more “liberal” or “civil libertarian” wing of the Court finds in favor of granting same sex couples the right to Federal recognition of a legally solemnized State marriage based more upon a finding that the issue is one of civil rights.

For related information please see: LGBT Visa.

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