The second decision, Hollingsworth v. Perry, was decided on more narrow procedural grounds. Hollingsworth was the Prop 8 case, where the state of California decided in a referendum to define marriage as between a man and a woman. The amendment worked its way through the California system, and was upheld. A same sex couple then challenged the statute as unconstitutional in federal court. The state of California was unwilling to defend Prop 8, meaning that no adverse parties (or parties who differ on legal issues) were left. A group of California citizens who were opposed to same-sex marriage took up the mantle to defend Prop 8, and took it up to the Court. The case was remanded (or returned) to the 9th Circuit who issued the decision because there was no “cause or injury.” Because the group of citizens behind the Proposition were only philosophically opposed to Prop 8, but had not been injured by (i.e. their rights had not been violated), the Court decided that they did not have standing to bring the case and refused to decide on the merits of the issue.
The Bottom Line: Prop 8 falls because the lower courts had ruled it to be unconstitutional, and same sex marriage will be legal in California.
As it stands right now, it is not clear how much the two cases will affect Pennsylvania family law. The Court explicitly did not hold that states have to respect same-sex marriages from other states, and repeatedly emphasized that the constitutional violation was not restricting same-sex marriage, but giving legal same-sex marriages a second-class status to legal heterosexual marriages that the states determined should be equal.
These decisions do, however, represent a step forward for same-sex marriage in the United States as a whole, with over 30% of Americans now living in states with same-sex marriage, and now federal recognition of legal same-sex marriages. With a rapid and continual increase in both the number of states and the percentage of Americans who support marriage equality, as well as the resulting legal issues from the recent Supreme Court decisions, it is likely that a broader ruling on the constitutionality of same-sex marriage decisions is not too far off.
Contact our Allegheny County family attorneys today to discuss your marriage or relationship case.