Follow-up Action Needed to Set Standards for DOMA Decisions, Says John Marshall Law School Professor

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Follow-up action is required from the Obama Administration or the courts to help clarify how the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) will be applied across the country, says Associate Dean and Professor Anthony Niedwiecki of Chicago’s John Marshall Law School.

Follow-up action is required from the Obama Administration or the courts to help clarify how the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) will be applied across the country, says Associate Dean and Professor Anthony Niedwiecki of Chicago’s John Marshall Law School.

Although the Court struck down DOMA in United States v. Windsor, No. 12-307 (U.S. June 26, 2013), it did not deliver any further instructions, arguing that it had no other reason to venture into matters usually left to the state except to stigmatize and demonize gay people.

Therefore, “a question still remains on whether all or some of these rights will extend to those people who were married in one state but now live in a state that doesn't recognize same-sex marriage,” the professor said.

Niedwiecki, a gay activist, said he is anxious to see what the next step will be in clarifying the Wednesday ruling. He called the decision granting gay couples equal protections under federal law “an historic ruling.” The court said defining marriage as between one man and one woman was wrong. All couples, regardless of sexual orientation, are eligible for federal benefits, such as tax rules and Social Security payments.

“The Court said that the law unfairly treated legally married same-sex couples differently than legally married opposite-sex couples an action that violated the Equal Protection Clause of the U.S. Constitution," the law professor explained.

Niedwiecki predicted the impact of this decision will be immediate for those same-sex couples who are legally married in their state. A question still remains on whether all or some of these rights will extend to those people who were married in one state but now live in a state that doesn't recognize same-sex marriage.

In its second decision Wednesday, Hollingsworth v. Perry, No. 12-144 (U.S. June 26, 2013), the Court examined an objection to California’s Proposition 8 approved in 2008 that declared marriage between a man and a woman. In its decision, the Court ruled that those opposed to gay marriage lacked “standing” to bring an appeal in which the federal district court and the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals both found the California law unconstitutional.

While the case was being appealed, no same-sex marriages were performed, but California Governor Edmund “Jerry” Brown has ordered all clerks in the state to begin issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples as soon as the district court lifts its "stay."

About The John Marshall Law School

The John Marshall Law School, founded in 1899, is an independent law school located in the heart of Chicago’s legal, financial and commercial districts. Through classes, clinics and special programs, students develop the strategic, analytical and transactional lawyering skills that are so valuable to employers. Its excellent curriculum, coupled with outstanding skills and experiential learning, help make John Marshall graduates practice-ready from day one. For practicing attorneys, John Marshall offers nine LLM degrees, more than any other law school in the Midwest. John Marshall is also a leader in providing distance education options in intellectual property, estate planning and employee benefits at the advanced graduate degree level. John Marshall offers six clinical experiences, including the nationally recognized Veterans Legal Support Center & Clinic and the Fair Housing Legal Clinic. U.S. News & World Report’s America’s Best Graduate Schools 2014 edition ranks John Marshall’s Lawyering Skills Program second and its Intellectual Property Law program 12th in the nation.

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Marilyn Thomas
The John Marshall Law School
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