U.S. Supreme Court Strikes Down DOMA [VIDEO]
The United States Supreme Court has ruled that the federal Defense of Marriage Act, is unconstitutional as a deprivation of the equal liberty of persons that is protected by the Fifth Amendment and let stand a ruling that California's ban on gay marriage is unconstitutional.
In significant but incomplete victories for gay rights, the Supreme Court on Wednesday struck down a provision of a federal law denying federal benefits to married gay couples and cleared the way for the resumption of same-sex marriage in California.
The justices issued two 5-4 rulings in their final session of the term. One decision wiped away part of a federal anti-gay marriage law that has kept legally married same-sex couples from receiving tax, health and pension benefits.
The other was a technical legal ruling that said nothing at all about same-sex marriage, but left in place a trial court's declaration that California's Proposition 8 is unconstitutional. That outcome probably will allow state officials to order the resumption of same-sex weddings in the nation's most populous state in about a month.
The ruling also paves the way for legally married gay couples to receive a number of previously denied benefits.
Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote the majority opinion in the DOMA ruling.
Some in the crowd outside the United States Supreme Court building hugged and others jumped up and down just after 10 a.m. EDT Wednesday when the decision was announced. Many people were on their cell phones monitoring Twitter, news sites and blogs for word of the decision. And there were cheers as runners came down the steps with the decision in hand and turned them over to reporters who quickly flipped through the decisions.
Same-sex marriage has been adopted by 12 states and the District of Columbia; New Jersey is not among those states. Another 18,000 couples were married in California during a brief period when same-sex unions were legal there.
The court has announced it will release its decision on California's ban on same-sex marriage on Thursday.
"Under DOMA, same-sex married couples have their lives burdened, by reason of government decree, in visible and public ways," Kennedy said. "DOMA's principal effect is to identify a subset of state-sanctioned marriages and make them unequal," he said.
He was joined by the court's four liberal justices.
Chief Justice John Roberts and Justices Samuel Alito, Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas dissented.
Scalia read his dissent aloud. Scalia said the court should not have decided the case. But, given that it did, he said, "we have no power under the Constitution to invalidate this democratically adopted legislation."