Posted by AzBlueMeanie:
Thursday’s orders by the Supreme Court came in the final round of
actions it planned to take in the 2012-13 Term. Orders List (.pdf).
One day after issuing two historic
rulings on same-sex marriages, the Court denied review of two cases from
Arizona and Nevada that posed tests of state laws that treat gays and
lesbians less favorably than straight couples.
Lyle Denniston at SCOTUSblog explains:
The Arizona case (Brewer v. Diaz,
12-23) was a plea by state officials for permission to enforce a law
enacted by its legislature in 2009, taking away health benefits for
same-sex state employees who were not married but were legally “domestic
partners.” The law accomplished that result by defining “dependent”
for purposes of the benefits as “a spouse,” meaning a legally married
wife or husband.
Since a voter-approved amendment to the state constitution limits
marriage to “one man and one woman,” same-sex couples are not eligible
to marry in Arizona, so the redefinition of “spouse” to exclude domestic
partners shut out couples who were not eligible to marry. The Ninth
Circuit Court barred enforcement of that law, and the state had
appealed, arguing that its law was actually neutral, and thus should
satisfy constitutional demands for legal equality.
The Ninth Circuit Court ruling stands, barring enforcement of the Arizona law.
The Nevada case (Coalition for the Protection of Marriage v. Sevcik,
12-689) is a direct test of the constitutionality of a state
constitutional provision that allows only marriages between a man and a
woman — twice approved by the voters, in 2000 and 2002. Eight same-sex
couples seeking to marry in the state had challenged its
In November, a federal judge in Reno upheld the marriage limitation,
finding that the voters had approved it for the “legitimate purpose” of
protecting the institution of traditional marriage. He based that part
of his decision on a one-sentence Supreme Court decision in 1972, in
the case of Baker v. Nelson, rejecting a constitutional challenge to a state ban in Minnesota on same-sex marriage.
The case has now gone to the Ninth Circuit Court, but the backers of
the state amendment asked the Supreme Court to hear the case before the
Circuit Court rules. The Justices held the case until Thursday, and
then denied it — as usual, without explanation.