Tag Archives: Windsor

Obergefell, Bourke, and “Fundamental Rights”: Gradually Bringing Same-Sex Marriage to Ohio and Kentucky

­Author: Ryan Goellner, Associate Member, University of Cincinnati Law Review

With recent narrow decisions in two federal lawsuits[1] challenging state constitutional bans on same-sex marriage, federal judges in Ohio and Kentucky have propelled the Sixth Circuit to the vanguard of interpreting the Supreme Court’s recent decision in United States v. Windsor.[2] The two district court judges not only utilized the constitutional momentum generated by Windsor to chip away at and severely curtail those amendments prohibiting same-sex marriage, but also essentially invited the Sixth Circuit to review their respective decisions and to reexamine its own jurisprudence on sexual orientation in light of Windsor. In one respect, the results in these lawsuits mirror many federal courts’ recent decisions in similar cases.[3] More importantly, however, these cases illustrate the struggle to wade through Windsor’s unclear standard of review, the intricate legal hoops through which district courts are jumping in post-Windsor lawsuits, and the building bottoms-up pressure for the Federal Courts of Appeals to assist in Windsor’s interpretation and application.

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Where Due Process and Equal Protection Meet: Articulating the “Fundamental Right” of Marriage

Author: Ryan Goellner, Associate Member, University of Cincinnati Law Review

Since the Supreme Court’s decision in United States v. Windsor[1] last summer, two questions have been on many court watchers’ minds. First, after Windsor articulated a lengthy reasoning for its decision to strike down the Defense of Marriage Act, under what standard of review will courts evaluate laws that discriminate against same-sex couples? Second, can the standard for invalidating the federal Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) under the Fifth Amendment be applied to States through the Fourteenth Amendment, or even be enunciated in a meaningful way? The Supreme Court’s current line of jurisprudence on constitutional problems that implicate same-sex issues necessitates that these two questions be considered and answered together,[2] as the United States District Court in Utah did in Kitchen v. Herbert.[3] Ultimately, the Kitchen case shows that the reasoning used in Windsor might not have been the soundest way to analyze the issues presented, and that there are alternative lines of reasoning that better support same-sex couples’ efforts to overturn state bans on gay marriage.

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Conflict of Laws and Property Rights in the Age of “Semi-Legal” Same-Sex Marriages

Author: Ryan Goellner, Associate Member, University of Cincinnati Law Review

In the United States federalist system, fifty different states often arrive at fifty different conclusions of law that can conflict not only with each other but also with federal law. The Supremacy Clause usually allows for the resolution of the latter conflicts, whereas conflicts among the laws of different states are less easily resolved.  That is epitomized in the split between states that recognize same-sex marriages and those that do not. Although many have celebrated the recent abrogation of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) in United States v. Windsor, the decision does not foreclose further conflicts over the treatment of same-sex marriages, whether between the federal government and the states, or among the states themselves.[1] These conflicts are particularly complex in the context of property rights in same-sex marriages. In light of conflict of law jurisprudence, there is pronounced confusion about how states that do not recognize same-sex marriages may treat those couples in cases of death and the disposition of property.

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Cracking Windsor’s Code: The Unusual Judicial Review Standard of United States v. Windsor and Its Potential Impact on Future Plaintiffs

Author: Colin P. Pool, Publications Editor, University of Cincinnati Law Review

The Supreme Court’s opinion in U.S. v. Windsor, [1] which struck down Section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), has been criticized by many for a perceived “lack of clarity,”[2] or a lack of “parameters, . . . objective analysis, [or] guidance as to how to apply [it].”[3] These shortsighted characterizations misread Windsor. In fact, the Court’s analysis is based on long-established, if somewhat antiquated, equal protection jurisprudence: “careful consideration” triggered by the “unusual character” of a statute. With this standard’s reemergence, the possibility arises that future equal protection plaintiffs may be able to take advantage of it.

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The New Batson Challenge: Extending the Protections of Batson v. Kentucky to Gays and Lesbians

Author: Ryan Goellner, Associate Member, University of Cincinnati Law Review

A contract dispute between two manufacturers of an AIDS drug has presented the opportunity for federal courts to protect gays and lesbians from being struck from juries because of their sexual orientation. Last month a panel for the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals heard oral arguments in a lawsuit by SmithKline Beecham Corporation against Abbott Laboratories[1] and will soon decide whether to expand the protections of the Supreme Court decision in Batson v. Kentucky[2] to include gay and lesbian venire persons. Extending Batson in this way would advance federal jurisprudence following the Supreme Court’s decision in United States v. Windsor,[3] and also would presage another crucial Supreme Court battle over constitutional protections for gays and lesbians in the United States.

The present controversy began when SmithKline sued Abbott, alleging violations of the Sherman Antitrust Act, deceptive trade practices, and monopolization over Abbott’s manufacture of an important antiretroviral drug, Norvir.[4] However, the most controversial issue in this case arose before the trial even began, when Abbott’s attorney used a peremptory challenge to strike a gay man from the jury pool after the man spoke about his partner.[5] Following a brief trial, the jury rendered a verdict for SmithKline for nearly $3.5 million. Abbott appealed from the judgment. In response, SmithKline instituted a cross-appeal against Abbott, requesting a new trial because the district court judge allowed Abbott’s attorney to strike the gay juror over SmithKline’s challenge to the strike under Batson.[6]

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Will Divorce Equality Bring Marriage Equality?

Author: Ryan Goellner, Associate Member, University of Cincinnati Law Review

This November, the Texas Supreme Court will hear oral arguments in a suit to dissolve a same-sex marriage performed outside the state, and will be deciding two important issues: (1) whether Texas courts have jurisdiction to hear such suit, and (2) whether Texas laws prohibiting same-sex marriage are constitutional. The Court’s decision on these issues could heavily influence similar litigation across the United States. Since the Court is likely to uphold the Texas laws at issue, their decision will not bode well for couples seeking marriage equality in a state with similar laws.

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