Stephen J. Buhler, Attorney at Law

Sole versus joint custody

For the past decade the issue of same-sex marriages in the United States has dominated the news cycles. At the beginning those in support of same-sex marriages were fighting a losing war as state after state enacted laws or constitutional amendments restricting marriage to one man and one woman. As public opinion changed so did the position of the law. State laws created to ban same-sex marriages have, in many but not all cases, been ruled unconstitutional and overturned time and time again in federal courts. Now the United States Supreme Court has agreed to review the issue with cases from four states.

On January 16, the Supreme Court announced that it would be reviewing the same-sex marriage cases out of four states. While there are 36 states with legalized same-sex marriage, there are still states that have constitutional bans in place. Challenges to state bans have largely gone the way of the plaintiffs with federal courts in most jurisdictions striking down marriage bans, but some laws have survived challenges as was the case with Michigan's law. While the case in Michigan began with two women wanting to share guardianship over their three children it has turned into a major battle in a national issue. Hearings are expected to begin in April and the court will likely release a decision in June 2015.

Utah was one of the many states that banned same-sex marriage. Because same-sex marriage was banned, gay couples were unable to adopt or engage in many other opportunities made available to opposite-sex couples. Utah's ban was overturned in December 2013, making it the first federal case on the issue decided after the U.S. Supreme Court's ruling striking down the federal government's Defense of Marriage Act.

A constitutional ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court must be followed by all other courts in the United States. If the Supreme Court hands down a clear decision, it is likely to be the final word in a family law battle that has lasted decades.

Source:, "U.S. Supreme Court to rule on marriage equality," Andy Kozlowski, Jan. 20, 2015

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