Supreme Court Deems Federal Defense of Marriage Act Unconstitutional, Sidesteps Ruling on Calif.'s Prop 8


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A big victory was scored by proponents of same-sex marriage across the country, as the Supreme Court of the United States struck down a portion of the Defense of Marriage Act that refuses federal benefits for same-sex couples.

From The Hill:

“DOMA undermines both the public and private significance of state-sanctioned same-sex marriages; for it tells these couples, and all the world, that their otherwise valid marriages are unworthy of federal recognition,” Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote.

The court's liberal wing joined Kennedy's opinion, which was full of rhetoric attacking DOMA as a law that aims to “disparage” and “humiliate” same-sex couples.

“DOMA instructs all federal officials, and indeed all persons with whom same-sex couples interact, including their own children, that their marriage is less worthy than the marriages of others,” Kennedy wrote.


The Obama administration will have to hammer out some details of how to apply the ruling, but overall it means federal benefits are now available to same-sex couples in states that recognize their marriages.

The court also issued a separate ruling, sidestepping a judgement on California's Proposition 8 ban of same-sex marriages and deferring to a lower court ruling that named Prop. 8 unconstitutional.

From the L.A. Times:

Chief Justice John Roberts, speaking for the 5-4 majority, said the private sponsors of Prop. 8 did not have legal standing to appeal after the ballot measure was struck down by a federal judge in San Francisco.

"We have never before upheld the standing of a private party to defend the constitutionality of a state statute when state officials have chosen not to," he said. "We decline to do so for the first time here."

Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Stephen Breyer, Antonin Scalia and Elena Kagan joined to form the majority.

The court’s action, while not a sweeping ruling, sends the case back to California, where state and federal judges and the state’s top officials have said same-sex marriage is a matter of equal rights.

Today's shaping up to be an interesting day in American legal history, folks.


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