Infographic: Marriage at the Supreme Court

Browse By

Blog Search

June 6, 2013

For the first time in history, the U.S. Supreme Court is hearing two gay rights cases in one term. One case challenges California's Prop 8, which revoked same-sex couples' freedom to marry in that state. The other challenges the so-called Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), which bars the federal government from recognizing the marriages of same-sex couples. Here’s a handy graphic from legal experts at Lambda Legal explaining how the Court may decide each case.

(Click to enlarge)

Further Reading:

Ask Lambda Legal: I want to be standing at the U.S. Supreme Court when they rule on the marriage cases. How can I find out when the ruling is expected to come down? Click here for the answer.

Marrage at the Supreme Court. A hub of everything you need to know.

Scroll down for a text-only version of the above graphic.


    Proposition 8: The California Marriage Case
    6 Most Likely Outcomes (and 5 Ways to Win)

    California Only (Narrow Favorable Ruling)
    Same-sex couples would be able to marry in California.

    No Standing (Prop 8 Proponents had no right to ask the court to hear the appeal)
    Trial court victory stands. Same-sex couples would be able to marry in California.

    No Ruling: Dismissed as Improvidently Granted (DIG)
    Dismissal of the case without comment. This would bring the freedom to marry to couples in California; the victory from the court of appeals would remain in place.

    California Plus+
    States providing all rights & responsibilities of marriage to same-sex couples through broad civil union or domestic partnership laws have no justification for excluding same-sex couples from marriage. This would bring marriage for same-sex couples to California, Colorado, Hawaii, Illinois, New Jersey, Nevada, and Oregon.

    Marriage Equality Nationwide (Broad Ruling)
    This outcome would lead all states to allow same-sex couples to marry.

    Negative Ruling (Prop 8 Upheld)
    This would not affect the validity of marriages same-sex couples entered in California when those marriages were briefly legal there, or the marriage laws of other states. Lambda Legal and other groups would continue our efforts to secure full equality for same-sex couples and their families.


    DOMA at the Supreme Court

    Section 3 of DOMA
    Under section 3 of DOMA, same-sex couples are denied rights, responsibilities & protections under more than 1,000 federal laws. Some of the effects are:
    • No health insurance for spouses of federal employees
    • No family medical leave for spouses to care for one another during illness
    • No military spousal support and benefits
    • No ability for spouses to file federal taxes jointly as married, costing them thousands
    • Separation of binational couples
    • Singling out LGBT people and relationships as unequal
    • Inviting discrimination from others
    • Telling children of gay/lesbian parents their families are second class

    3 Most Likely Outcomes


    Court strikes down section 3 of DOMA (affirms the Second Circuit decision that section 3 of DOMA violates the constitution’s guarantee of equality):

    Federal government will have to treat marriages of same-sex couples the same way it treats the marriages of different-sex couples for all federal statutes and programs.

    Would NOT resolve:
    Whether states must allow same-sex couples to marry.
    Whether states must respect marriages same-sex couples legally entered into in other states.

    Married same-sex couples who live in states that do not recognize their marriage may experience a period of uncertainty as to which federal benefits they can receive.

    No Standing
    To be in Supreme Court:

    The Court may find that the Department of Justice does not have the right to seek Court review and that the Bipartisan Legal Advisory Committee of the House of Representatives (BLAG) does not have standing to defend DOMA.

    The Appeals Court decision would be vacated by the Court and it would be the district court decision finding DOMA Section 3 unconstitutional that would stand. Further efforts might be necessary to defeat DOMA nationwide.


    SCOTUS Upholds DOMA (Reverses the Second Circuit decision):

    Same-sex couples will continue to be denied rights, responsibilities & protections under more than 1,000 federal laws.

    Pushing forward for Respect for Marriage Act in Congress.