December 3, 2012
By Scottie Thomaston
With ten petitions for cases that deal with gay rights issues (including marriage equality, Section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act, and same-sex domestic partnership benefits) in front of the Supreme Court, a number of cases working their way through the lower courts have been stayed, suspended, or otherwise delayed until the Court decides which issues it will take up this term. Since many cases are likely to at least be put on hold pending Supreme Court review and since there are so many cases, keeping up with the status of all of them can be difficult. This is intended to be a quick update on where things stand.
First, Windsor v. USA, along with Gill v. Office of Personnel Management and Massachusetts v. Department of Health and Human Resources (the latter two are consolidated) have been decided at their respective appeals courts, so aside from awaiting possible Supreme Court review, there will be no further action on those. Both are challenges to Section 3 of DOMA.
There are two recently decided cases dealing with marriage equality: Sevcik v. Sandoval (Nevada) and Jackson v. Abercrombie (Hawaii). Sevcik has not yet been appealed* but an appeal to the Ninth Circuit is expected soon. And Jackson has been appealed to the Ninth Circuit, but it is currently on hold.
At the district court level, several challenges to Section 3 of DOMA are currently on hold: Cozen O’Connor v. Tobits, Blesch v. Holder, McLaughlin v. Panetta. The Bipartisan Legal Advisory Group (BLAG) – who stepped in to defend Section 3 of DOMA after the Justice Department dropped its defense – is attempting to get Aranas v. Napolitano dismissed.
At the appeals court, Pedersen v. Office of Personnel Management‘s briefing schedule has been suspended. And Dragovich v. US Dept. of Treasury is stayed, as well as Golinski v. Office of Personnel Management. Cardona v. Shinseki is delayed pending possible Supreme Court review of Section 3 of DOMA, but that case is not currently stayed.
Depending on what issues the Supreme Court decides to take up, at least some of these cases may continue to be delayed while others will be heard. If the Court declines to hear the Prop 8 case, for example, it’s less likely that courts would have any reason to delay hearing marriage equality-related cases in the lower courts. But most of the DOMA cases may be put on hold if the Supreme Court decides to review one or more challenges to the law.
So far, the Illinois marriage equality cases (Darby v. Orr, Lazaro v. Orr) are still ongoing and a gay couple in Michigan recently amended their current federal suit to include a marriage equality challenge there. And in New Jersey, Garden State Equality v. Dow is still ongoing after a judge reinstated their federal equal protection claims. These cases are still being briefed, along with Aranas and two other DOMA cases, Cooper-Harris v. USA and Bishop v. USA.
When the Supreme Court finally decides what it’s going to do we should start seeing what the fall out will be with these other cases.
h/t Kathleen, as always, for much of this information
*Lambda Legal filed its notice of appeal in Sevcik this morning, according to Jon Davidson, their legal director