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Posted by: Maricopa Lawyers on Jul 17, 2013

The U.S. Supreme Court recently handed out rulings on several very prominent cases. With so many rulings in such a quick period of time it’s easy for people to lose track of what was decided and how it affects them personally. So how did the recent rulings affect us Arizonans?

The Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA)

Proposition 8 and the Defense of Marriage Act have been hot topics for a number of years now, last month, a final decision by the Supreme Court ruled that DOMA was unconstitutional. Justice Kennedt stated that the act violated the equal protection clause of the Fifth Amendment.

While only 13 states allow gay marriage, couples in these states now have rights to benefits such as social security, pensions, and immigration. This is a huge step for gay right activists, who have been fighting DOMA since its initial  introduction in 1996.

Now that LGTB relationships are considered valid by the federal government, where does that leave the rest of the nation? In most of the US, gay marriage is still considered illegal. Therefore, if a couple weds in California and moves to a state like Arizona, their marriage will not be recognized.

Voting Rights Act

The Supreme Court voted to strike down a portion of the Voting Rights Act in a landmark decision. Arizona is among several states left in ambiguous political territory, lawmakers divided over how or if the Voting Rights Act might be further altered.

The Voting Rights Act of 1965 mandates nine states with a history of discrimination to receive approval from the Justice Department or a specified panel of judges prior to ratifying current voting laws. The measure also applies to an additional 12 cities and 57 counties elsewhere.

The ruling was reached in a 5-4 decision by Chief Justice John Roberts and leaves the political issue largely open. The decision quickly drew public response from several civil rights activists, some of whom describe the situation as ‘devastating’.

How does the Supreme Court ruling affect Arizona? The state will no longer be required to receive federal approval concerning changes made to voting laws and statutes. The ruling stipulates that the previous preapproval requirements are hereby unconstitutional, a decision that suggests the Voting Rights Act draws from old data that does not reflect increasingly progressive attitudes in America.

Some Arizonans consider the Supreme Court ruling a major victory, vindication from being labeled as racially biased. Certain critics of the ruling have named Arizona specifically for pushing recent voter legislation that would potentially suppress Latino voter turnout.

Fifth Amendment

One of the most overshadowed supreme court rulings in the past year happened last month, but was largely ignored by many due to the striking down of DOMA. In Salinas vs. Texas a man was charged with murder after questioning, 20 years ago.

Genovevo Salinas was at a party during a shooting, he was not read his miranda rights and was not arrested that night. When he came down to the police station to answer questions, and for them to inspect his shotgun. He remained silent, biting his lip, and shuffling his feet when they alluded to him that the shotgun casings were from his gun.

Salinas was then booked, even though he claimed it was unconstitutional because of the fifth amendment. The trial finally hit the Supreme Court, and it was ruled that since he did not explicitly say “I am invoking my right to remain silent,” his self-incrimination privilege had not been violated.

So what does that mean for Arizonans? If you are arrested and wish to invoke the fifth amendment, you must speak up now. Although it seems contradictory, you must declare your wish to remain silent before you stop talking, or else it could be used against you in court.