The Defense of Marriage Act, passed by Bill Clinton in 1996 that barred the federal government from recognizing same-sex marriages legalized by the states, has been ruled unconstitutional by the Supreme Court today by a 5-4 vote.
Here's what you need to know.
Reports the NYTimes:
Married gay and lesbian couples are entitled to federal benefits, the Supreme Court ruled on Wednesday in a major victory for the gay rights movement.
In a second decision, the court declined to say whether there is a constitutional right to same-sex marriage. Instead, the justices said that a case concerning California’s ban on same-sex marriage, Proposition 8, was not properly before them. Because officials in California had declined to appeal a trial court’s decision against them and because the proponents of Proposition 8 were not entitled to step into the state’s shoes to appeal from the decision, the court said, it was powerless to issue a decision.
The ruling leaves in place laws banning same-sex marriage around the nation. Its consequences for California were not immediately clear, but many legal analysts say that same-sex marriages there are likely to resume in a matter of weeks.
Reports the Huff Post:
"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 Anthony Kennedy wrote in the majority opinion. “By seeking to displace this protection and treating those persons as living in marriages less respected than others, the federal statute is in violation of the Fifth Amendment.”
Justice Kennedy delivered the court’s opinion, and was joined by Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Stephen Breyer, Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan. Chief Justice John Roberts and Justices Antonin Scalia and Samuel Alito all filed dissenting opinions. Justice Clarence Thomas joined Scalia's dissent in whole and parts of Alito's opinion.
President Obama's reaction on Twitter:
And a highly emotional crowd reacted to the decision outside the Supreme Court: