Supreme Court Strikes Down Defense Of Marriage Act
June 26, 2013
The United States Supreme Court made two landmark decisions early Wednesday with regards to a pair of controversial laws limiting rights for same-sex couples.
In a 5-4-decision issued Wednesday morning, the high court ruled that that the federal Defense of Marriage Act is unconstitutional, overturning a nation-wide legislation that limited benefits for same-sex couples.
Moments later, the court dismissed an appeal regarding Proposition 8, a decision that will once again legalize same-sex marriage in the state of California.
Both decisions out of Washington on Wednesday are already being hailed as important steps in ensuring equality for same-sex couples across the United States.
With regards to the Defense of Marriage Act, or DOMA, the court ruled that the federal government must recognize state-sanctioned same-sex marriages. It will give gay couple access to numerous federal benefits such as tax breaks and survivor assistance aid that have previously only been afforded to heterosexual couples.
Under DOMA, the federal government recognized marriage exclusively as the union of one man and one woman, although same-sex marriage has been legalized in 12 states and the District of Columbia.
President Barack Obama was en route to Senegal when the ruling was announced Wednesday morning in Washington but weighed in from his official Twitter account.
In 2011, the Obama administration abandoned its defense of the law, but continued to enforce it. President Barack Obama subsequently endorsed gay marriage in 2012.
Thirty minutes later, the justices said that defenders of the California law prohibiting gay marriage on a state level could not appeal an earlier ruling from a lower court that struck down the ban.
“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,” Chief Justice John Roberts wrote on behalf of the majority decision. “We decline to do so for the first time here.”
“We have no authority to decide this case on the merits, and neither did the Ninth Circuit,”
As a result of the 5-4 decision to not weigh in on the matter, same-sex unions in California will likely resume shortly.