Same-Sex Marriages: Legal Issues [May 6, 2013]   [open pdf - 425KB]

"The recognition of same-sex marriages generates debate on both the federal and state levels. Either legislatively or judicially, same-sex marriage is legal in 10 states. Other states allow civil unions or domestic partnerships, which may provide similar state-level rights and/or benefits. Many states have statutes or constitutional amendments limiting marriage to one man and one woman. These state-level variations raise questions about the validity of such unions outside the contracted jurisdiction and have bearing on the distribution of federal benefits. The U.S. Supreme Court appears poised to address the constitutionality of state and federal laws that limit the definition of 'marriage' to heterosexual couples. The first case, 'United States v. Windsor', involves questions regarding Section 3 of The Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), P.L. 104-199, which created a federal definition of 'marriage' as the union of one man and one woman. The second case, 'Hollingsworth v. Perry', presents a similar challenge to California's Proposition 8, which limited the validity and recognition of 'marriages' to heterosexual couples. […] In both cases, the plaintiffs allege that the relevant laws violate the Constitution's equal protection clauses. This report discusses DOMA and legal challenges to it. It reviews legal principles applied to determine the validity of a marriage contracted in another state and surveys the various approaches employed by states to address same-sex marriage. It also examines previous Congressional resolutions proposing a constitutional amendment and limiting federal courts' jurisdiction to hear or determine any question pertaining to the interpretation of DOMA."

Report Number:
CRS Report for Congress, RL31994
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