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Professor David S. Cohen Discusses U.S. Supreme Court, Same-Sex Marriage on Providence Journal PolitiFact

April 03, 2013

Seeking to verify or refute Rhode Island catholic bishop Thomas Tobin's proclamations about the two same-sex marriage cases currently before the U.S. Supreme Court, the Providence Journal's PolitiFact turned to Professor David S. Cohen for his expertise on constitutional and gender issues in an article published on March 27. 

Tobin, head of the diocese of Providence, opposes same-sex marriage and claimed that efforts in the Rhode Island state legislature to legalize same-sex marriage would be futile given that the U.S. Supreme Court would be ruling on its cases involving California's Proposition 8 and the federal Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), PolitiFact claimed. 

As Professor Cohen explained, the Supreme Court cases involve different issues than those the Rhode Island legislature is tackling. According to PolitiFact, in the Supreme Court cases, the court is determining whether Proposition 8's ban on same-sex marriage is unconstitutional and, in the DOMA case, whether the federal law unfairly discriminates against same-sex couples, both are efforts to curb same-sex marriage rights.  On the other hand, Rhode Island's legislature is attempting to affirmatively establish same-sex marriage rights not restrict them, PolitiFact explains. 

"Rhode Island still has every reason to go forward if they want marriage equality," Cohen said.  The Supreme Court is not deciding whether states have the right to create same-sex marriage rights, but only whether Proposition 8 unfairly precludes same-sex marriage in California and DOMA unfairly discriminates against same-sex unions, Cohen added.