On June 28th, the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals dissolved a stay on gay marriage in California that it had originally imposed as the Proposition 8 case was making its way up to the U.S. Supreme Court. The Circuit Court’s move, which came just two days after the Supreme Court ruled that opponents of Proposition 8 had no standing to challenge the law and overturned a key section of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), prompted hundreds of couples to to visit California courthouses that Friday afternoon. For the first time, same-sex couples were being legally married in the eyes of both California and the federal government.
Some of us from Adviatech’s San Francisco office took a stroll down to City Hall that evening to witness a historical moment. Inside the building, there were marriages taking place simultaneously in atriums, stairways, hallways, and corners. Robed justices joined people together in tuxedos, dresses, shorts, and jeans and some even had onlookers take pictures of them with their newly wedded unions.
The mood inside and on the exterior steps of the courthouse was humble and joyful. A combined feel of excitement and relief was evident as couples exchanged rings that they hurriedly purchased on Friday, inherited, or bought many years ago in anticipation of the day they would be seen as equals under the law.
At some point in the future, the U.S. Supreme Court will likely be asked to rule on other sections of DOMA and ultimately make a wider ruling on the constitutionality of discriminating against same-sex couples as they did in the case of anti-miscegenation laws just 46 years ago. Your law firm needs to be ready to welcome a new group of clients into your practice.
Same-sex couples are not only going to need family law attorneys; new laws will impact bankruptcy, estate planning, criminal defense, and even personal injury services as same-sex spouses become entitled to wrongful death compensation and other protections.
Many estate planning and family law firms have already started reaching out to same-sex couples to build a network of clients. If you haven’t already, start now. This is going to be a huge market that will need various legal services, and law firms that lay an early foundation will gain the competitive advantage.