Media Advisory: Same-sex marriage Supreme Court cases: What will they mean for North Carolina?

A pair of cases concerning recognition of same-sex marriage that will be before the U.S. Supreme Court on March 26 and 27 have possible implications for North Carolina policies and residents, according to John Dinan, professor of politics and international affairs at Wake Forest.

One case involves a challenge to Proposition 8, a 2008 California state constitutional amendment barring recognition of same-sex marriage. The U.S. Supreme Court’s decision regarding the legitimacy of the California amendment could have implications for North Carolina and other states, according to Dinan. The Supreme Court could uphold the California amendment.  Or, it could invalidate the California amendment on the ground that once a state court recognizes a right to same-sex marriage this cannot be overturned by a subsequent state constitutional amendment.

Dinan says: “There is also a possibility that in striking down the California amendment the Supreme Court could recognize a federal constitutional right to same-sex marriage, in which case same-sex marriage bans in North Carolina and other states would be struck down.”

A second case features a challenge to a provision of the federal Defense of Marriage Act of 1996 barring federal recognition of same-sex marriage for purposes of administering federal programs such as Social Security.

Dinan says: “If the Supreme Court decides to uphold several federal circuit court decisions invalidating this provision of the Defense of Marriage Act, this would mean that legally married same-sex couples living in North Carolina or any other state would be able to access federal benefits to the same extent as other married couples.”

Dinan is the author of The American State Constitutional Tradition and writes an annual review of constitutional developments in the 50 states.


About Wake Forest University: Wake Forest University combines the best traditions of a small liberal arts college with the resources of a large research university. Founded in 1834, the school is located in Winston-Salem, N.C. The University’s graduate school of arts and sciences, divinity school, and nationally ranked schools of law, medicine and business enrich our intellectual environment. Learn more about Wake Forest University at


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