Mar 25, 2013

Supreme Court: Marriage Equality and Guns

Windsor v. United States (lesbian widow after marrying her life partner in Canada owed the IRS over $300,000 in inheritance taxes that if her marriage was recognized wouldn't have owed a dime) oral arguments are scheduled this week to be heard in the Supreme court. What does marriage equality have to do with guns, you may ask. Both depend on full faith and credit clause and opposite interpretations of the same text of of the Constitution. The same thing that avoids inconvenience of having to retake driving tests when you cross state lines, is that the full faith and credit clause of the Constitution and it also allows for the Iron Pipeline from Virginia up I-95 to the Northeast's cities that have strict state gun control laws as opposed to Virginia and other Southern states that have only the Federal lenient gun control laws. So guns and driver's licenses can be go back and forth across state lines, and this relates to marriage due to the fact a couple that is of opposite genders only needs to get married once to have that marriage recognized in all 50 states, District of Columbia, and U.S. territories. The couple could even get married abroad in a destination wedding, no matter what country (probably more difficult in Cuba, North Korea, etc) even Canada.

In 1996 Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) was signed into law and the constitutionality of Section 3 of DOMA is what is going to argued in front the Supreme Court this week. It is as follows:

Section 3. Definition of marriage
In determining the meaning of any Act of Congress, or of any ruling, regulation, or interpretation of the various administrative bureaus and agencies of the United States, the word 'marriage' means only a legal union between one man and one woman as husband and wife, and the word 'spouse' refers only to a person of the opposite sex who is a husband or a wife.

So married couples have expectations that their marriage is not going to be questioned since a marriage license in one state is accepted in every state, a license to drive a car is accepted every state, a license (or lack of a requirement to have a license) to carry a gun is accepted in every other state. In 2010 District of Columbia vs Heller set forward that Washington DC could not regulate firearms to the degree of an outright ban, but puts into question of other restrictions such as licences to own guns as New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, etc currently has. Guns purchased in Virginia do not require licenses and are not registered in any database. Federal Government has been unwilling to bar the transportation of firearms from one jurisdiction to another and leaves it is up to the local municipality to enforce gun legislation. Full faith and credit is provided to the gun owners who cross state lines, but a marriage crossing state lines is too much and can not receive the same full faith and credit. So the guns can't be held to a different standard from state to state, but marriage licences in the limited cases of same gender marriages get can be? Unique treatment from the Federal Government punishing same gender couple for refusing to acknowledge their marriages. That the same conservative justices are going to vote to continue this injustices while telling the Federalist Society the Constitution is not a living document but somehow seems to twist and move to fit their predetermined concept of how the world should work. In one instance, Heller, reinforces that full faith and credit while doubling down that government shouldn't intervene. In the upcoming Windsor case Scalia, Thomas, Alito will certainly make the case that government should discriminate (thereby intervening) when private individuals go and get licenses from a municipality that through legislature or judicial means provides marriages to any 2 consenting adults regardless of gender.

I could be wrong, maybe those conservative justices will follow their statements that Constitution restrains them to make law and that the legislature can't amend the Constitution via statute and surprise me with a unanimous decision striking down DOMA . I won't be holding my breath.