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Supreme Court Strikes Down DOMA, Prop 8 Appeal

Gay rights supporter Vin Testa waves a rainbow flag outside the U.S. Supreme Court building
WASHINGTON, DC – JUNE 26: Gay rights supporter Vin Testa waves a rainbow flag outside the U.S. Supreme Court building on June 26, 2013 in Washington, DC. The high court is expected to rule on the DOMA and Prop 8 gay marriage cases. (Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images)

The United States Supreme Court has ruled that same-sex couples should get the same federal benefits as traditional couples.

In its ruling, the court strikes down the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA). The act prevented married gay couples from receiving a wide range of benefits, including tax, health and retirement.

The vote was 5-4.

Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote in the majority opinion “DOMA divests married same-sex couples of the duties and responsibilities that are an essential part of married life and that they in most cases would be honored to accept were DOMA not in force… [DOMA] places same-sex couples in an unstable position of being in a second-tier marriage.”

President Obama tweeted the following message following the decision:

 


 

In a second ruling, the Supreme Court clears way for same-sex unions in California by dismissing Prop 8 appeal. However, some have said the rule is confusing because it does not rule specifically on gay marriage.

According to CNN’s Bill Mears:

The Supreme Court has dismissed a closely-watched appeal over same-sex marriage on jurisdictional grounds, ruling Wednesday private parties do not have “standing” to defend California’s voter-approved ballot measure barring gay and lesbians couples from state-sanctioned wedlock. The ruling permits same-sex couples in California to legally marry. The 5-4 decision avoids for now a sweeping conclusion on whether same-sex marriage is a constitutionally-protected “equal protection” right that would apply to all states. The case is Hollingsworth v. Perry (12-144).

CNN included this additional note:

A little more detail on exactly what the Proposition 8 decision by the Supreme Court means: By dismissing the case, the decision will allow for the lower court decision in California that allows for same-sex marriage to be reinstated. The appeals court stay on the decision will be lifted.

It’s important to note that this ruling only affects California, and does not affect any other state that currently has existing laws against gay-marriage.

 


 

According to the Associated Press “supporters of same-sex marriage burst into cheers Wednesday at news of the Supreme Court’s decision invalidating part of a law denying gay marriage partners the same federal benefits heterosexual couples enjoy.”

Most of the crowd that spilled across the sidewalk in front of the court were gay marriage supporters. One person held a rainbow flag and another wore a rainbow shawl, and a number of people carried signs with messages including “2 moms make a right” and “‘I Do’ Support Marriage Equality.” Others wore T-shirts including “Legalize gay” and “It’s time for marriage equality.” At several points the crowd began a call and response: “What do we want? Equality. When do we want it? Now.”

 


 

Amy Howe of SCOTUSBlog, which covers the high court, offered two “plain English” explanations of today’s rulings. First, the DOMA case, known as United States v. Windsor:

The federal Defense of Marriage Act defines “marriage,” for purposes of over a thousand federal laws and programs, as a union between a man and a woman only. Today the Court ruled, by a vote of five to four, in an opinion by Justice Kennedy, that the law is unconstitutional. The Court explained that the states have long had the responsibility of regulating and defining marriage, and some states have opted to allow same-sex couples to marry to give them the protection and dignity associated with marriage. By denying recognition to same-sex couples who are legally married, federal law discriminates against them to express disapproval of state-sanctioned same-sex marriage. This decision means that same-sex couples who are legally married must now be treated the same under federal law as married opposite-sex couples.

And here’s the Proposition 8 case, aka Hollingsworth v. Perry:

After the two same-sex couples filed their challenge to Proposition 8 in federal court in California, the California government officials who would normally have defended the law in court, declined to do so. So the proponents of Proposition 8 stepped in to defend the law, and the California Supreme Court (in response to a request by the lower court) ruled that they could do so under state law. But today the Supreme Court held that the proponents do not have the legal right to defend the law in court. As a result, it held, the decision by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, the intermediate appellate court, has no legal force, and it sent the case back to that court with instructions for it to dismiss the case.

[SCOTUSBlog, Reuters, A.P.]

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