Sonia Sotomayor on Families & Children



Overturn DOMA; equal protection for same-sex couples

In United States v. Windsor, the Supreme Court ruled that the Defense of Marriage Act, which defined the term "marriage" under federal law as a "legal union between one man and one woman" deprived same-sex couples who are legally married under state laws of their Fifth Amendment rights to equal protection under federal law.

Situation: Edith Windsor and Thea Spyer were married in Toronto, Canada in 2007. Their marriage was recognized by New York state, where they resided. Upon Spyer's death in 2009, Windsor was forced to pay $363,000 in federal taxes, because their marriage was not recognized by federal law.

OnTheIssues explanation: This ruling led to a series of state legalization of same-sex marriage, as well as federal equality of same-sex rights (but not federal equality of marriage).

Opinions:Majority: Kennedy, Ginsburg, Breyer, Sotomayor, & Kagan; dissent: Roberts, Alito, Thomas & Scalia, on mixed grounds of federalism & traditionalism.

Source: CNN.com on 2012 SCOTUS docket #12-307 , Jun 26, 2013

Parental custody includes preventing child from leaving USA

Sotomayor wrote a dissenting opinion in Croll v. Croll, 2000, which considered whether a "ne exeat" clause prohibiting one parent from removing a child from the country without the other parent's consent constitutes a "right of custody" for purposes of the Hague Convention on International Child Abduction, thereby requiring the child's return when the clause is violated. In holding that such a clause does not constitute a "right of custody," the majority declined to attribute any weight to contrary holdings by courts in other signatory nations, dismissing them as "few, scattered, & conflicting."

In her dissent, Judge Sotomayor concluded that the Convention's drafters had in mind "a notably more expansive definition of custody rights" than the "parochial" definitions--from U.S. dictionaries--on which the majority relied. Moreover, she noted, "most foreign courts" had held, as she would have, that such a clause does indeed constitute a "right of custody."

Source: ScotusBlog.com, "Civil Litigation" , Jul 25, 2009

1st Amendment protects videogame violence as "speech".

Justice Sotomayor joined the Court's decision on BROWN v. ENTERTAINMENT MERCHANTS on Jun 27, 2011:

A California law imposed $1000 civil fines on persons who sold or rented to minors "violent video games." The video game industry sued to prevent enforcement of the law.


Video games are a form of speech and are subject to protection under the First Amendment because it has proved difficult to distinguish between politics and entertainment. Games communicate ideas through literary devices. A well defined constitutional tradition is that restrictions based on the content of speech are permitted only in only a few areas, such as obscenity, incitement to violence, or uttering fighting words. Depictions of violence are not within this tradition. California has not chosen to restrict those other media, e.g., Saturday morning cartoons, therefore California's law is underinclusive, suggesting that it disfavors a particular speaker or viewpoint.

CONCURRED: ALITO concurs in judgment; joined by ROBERTS

The California law should have been struck down on due process grounds as "vague": It lacked sufficiently narrow definition of "violent video game" so that a retailer would be put on notice. The Court should not have resorted to the First Amendment and should have been far more careful and moved with more deliberation in evaluating a new technology, since the future may find participating in a video game is actually different from watching movie.


The Founders would not have seen any right to speak to a minor other than through his parents, which is what the California law permits.


The California law withstands other First Amendment's strict scrutiny.
Source: Supreme Court case 11-BROWN argued on Nov 2, 2010

  • Click here for definitions & background information on Families & Children.
  • Click here for a profile of Sonia Sotomayor.
  • Wiki Profile of Sonia Sotomayor.
  • Click here for VoteMatch responses by Sonia Sotomayor.
  • Click here for AmericansElect responses by Sonia Sotomayor.
  • Click here for all excerpts for Sonia Sotomayor.
Other Justices on Families & Children: Sonia Sotomayor on other issues:
Samuel Alito
Stephen Breyer
Ruth Bader Ginsburg
Elena Kagan
Anthony Kennedy
John Roberts
Sonia Sotomayor
Clarence Thomas

Former Justices:
Antonin Scalia
David Souter
Sandra Day O'Connor
William Rehnquist
John Paul Stevens

Party Platforms:
Democratic Platform
Green Platform
Libertarian Platform
Natural Law Platform
Reform Platform
Republican Platform
Tea Platform
Civil Rights
Foreign Policy
Free Trade
Govt. Reform
Gun Control
Health Care
Homeland Security
Social Security
Tax Reform
Search for...

Page last updated: Sep 27, 2016