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National Partnership Staff

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Same-Sex Couples Deserve Equal Protection Under the Law

Today, the U.S. Supreme Court will hear oral arguments in the first of two cases that could significantly affect same-sex couples in this country. At issue is the constitutionality of two laws: Proposition 8, which overturned a California Supreme Court ruling that gave same-sex couples the right to marry; and the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), which bars the federal government from recognizing same-sex marriages. At stake in these cases is nothing less than our nation's promise of equal protection under the law.

The United States has a proud history of valuing equal justice and legal protection. Proposition 8 and DOMA contradict this fundamental value by discriminating against same-sex couples based on their sexual orientation. The Supreme Court has repeatedly deemed discrimination based on sex and race unconstitutional. It is time for it to recognize that discrimination based on sexual orientation is just as unlawful.

The National Partnership joined with allies in the women's and legal communities to make that argument in two friend-of-the-court briefs filed last month. The briefs urge the Court to recognize that Proposition 8 and DOMA are rooted in archaic, gender-based stereotypes that make them deserving of heightened scrutiny - and that they are every bit as unconstitutional as laws that discriminate based on sex. The briefs argue that the laws' provisions are "vestiges of an obsolete legal regime that imposed separate and unequal roles on men and women within marriage."

Discriminatory laws must be deemed unconstitutional in the United States - whether the discrimination is based on sex, race or sexual orientation. If the Supreme Court fails to recognize this and does not find Proposition 8 and DOMA unconstitutional, millions of people may be deprived of the equality they need to live the lives they want and deserve. That's not what America stands for, nor is it what the majority of people in this country believe is right. We have a lot riding on the Supreme Court ruling in these two cases.


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