Supreme Court strikes down DOMA

Supreme Court strikes down DOMA

Supreme Court strikes down DOMA
June 26
11:54 2013

William A. Darnell / Senior Staff Writer

In a landmark decision for marriage equality and gay rights this morning, the U.S. Supreme Court struck down the federal Defense of Marriage Act, 5 to 4.

The decision entitles same-sex couples to federal benefits and will immediately extend those rights in states, currently 13, allowing same-sex marriage. Benefits can vary pending on the location of the marriage and the current state they reside in.

However, the court’s decision did not retract laws already in place banning same-sex marriage throughout the nation, and elected to not comment on whether same-sex marriage is a constitutional right.

The act, signed into law in 1996 by President Bill Clinton, defined marriage as a union between a man and a woman. More than 1,000 federal laws used this definition of marriage, including those for federal benefits, which was the primary issue in the case decided today, United States v. Windsor No. 12-307.

Edith Windsor and Thea Clara Spyer were married in 2007 in Canada, and when Spyer died in 2009, Windsor inherited her property. Because of the federal guidelines in DOMA — in this case the estate tax exemption — the Internal Revenue Service was unable to treat Windsor as a surviving spouse, and thus had to levy her with a $360,000 tax bill. Last year, Windsor sued and the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit, in New York, overturned the law.

Justice Anthony M. Kennedy wrote for the majority and was joined by Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Stephen G. Breyer, Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan.

“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 federal statute is invalid, for no legitimate purpose overcomes the purpose and effect to disparage and to injure those whom the State, by its marriage laws, sought to protect in personhood and dignity.”

Justice Antonin Scalia vehemently disagreed with the ruling, and was joined by fellow dissenters Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. and Justices Clarence Thomas and Samuel A. Alito Jr.

“In the majority’s telling, this story is black and white: hate your neighbor or come along with us,” Scalia said. “It is hard to admit that one’s political opponents are not monsters, especially in a struggle like this one, and the challenge in the end proves more than today’s court can handle.”

Also this morning, the Supreme Court declined to rule on Proposition 8, thus legalizing same-sex marriage in California.

Information gathered from published reports.

Additional reporting by T.S. Johnson / Web Editor

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