BREAKING: High court strikes down Defense of Marriage Act


Details forthcoming.

UPDATE: Justice Anthony Kennedy joined the court’s four liberals in this 5-4 decision.


The 1996 Defense of Marriage Act, or DOMA, was signed into law by President Bill Clinton, barring federal recognition of same-sex marriages for purposes such as Social Security survivors’ benefits, insurance benefits, immigration and tax filing.

Section 3 of the law defines marriage as “a legal union between one man and one woman as husband and wife” and a spouse as “a person of the opposite sex who is a husband or a wife.” That provision had been struck down by eight lower courts before the Supreme Court’s 5-4 ruling in United States v. Windsor.

UPDATE III: Conservative Justice Antonin Scalia has a lengthy dissent on the DOMA case, indicating he’s fit to be tied.

UPDATE IV: Regarding the high court’s ruling on California’s gay-marriage ban, there’s THIS:

Gay and lesbian couples in California who have been waiting four long years to get married can start making wedding plans again after the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that supporters of Proposition 8 did not have legal standing to defend the case.

The high court decision applies only to California and does not affect other states were same-gender marriages are banned.

Minutes early, the high court ruled that the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) is dead.

The latest ruling means the lower court ruling that Proposition 8 is unconstitutional will stand. Maybe. Those wedding plans could come to a crashing halt if the losing side appeals the decision within 30 days.

The high court’s “legal standing” argument is also a slap in the face to the California Supreme Court, which was asked by the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeal to rule if the proponents had legal standing to appeal since the State of California refused to do so. The high court has a different, more rigid standard that the California Supreme Court.

The historic ruling by District Judge Vaughn Walker on Aug. 4, 2010 that Prop 8 is unconstitutional was affirmed by the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals on Feb. 7, 2012. The key issue, which the Supreme Court decided against weighing into, was whether the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteen Amendment of the U.S. Constitution prohibits the State of California from defining marriage as the union of one man and one woman.

It should be only a matter of weeks before the State of California will begin resuming same-sex marriages, which should get the green light from the various courts in a matter of hours or a few days. But beware of an appeal within 30 days that could halt the process.

The nation’s most populous state, which was the first to marry gay and lesbian couples in 2004 when then San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom allowed same-sex marriages until the courts ordered a stay, could be joining Connecticut, Iowa, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New York, Vermont and Washington state in allowing same-sex couples to wed. The District of Columbia has also legalized marriage for gay and lesbian couples.

Should anti-gay forces file an appeal to stop the SCOTUS ruling, there is a Plan B in place to put another referendum on the ballot to repeal Prop 8. Target date would be the November 2014 elections in which California will be electing a governor and facing competitive congressional races.

In 2008, the California Supreme Court ruled that gay and lesbian couples had the right to marry based on equal protection under the law. From June 16, 2008 until Nov. 5, 2008, when Prop 8 was approved by a thin majority of Californians, more than 16,000 gay and lesbian couples in the Golden State were married.



  1. It was a dumb law. A “big gov’t.” overreach championed by the so-called opponents of “big gov’t”.

    “Government is broken and bloated, the root of all problems and the solver of none. But you should trust the feds to decide who gets to be married, regardless of local laws.”

    Gimme a break.

    And again, swing voter Kennedy gets to write the opinion. I would love to see a movie that shows, in fictionalized “West Wing” fashion, SCOTUS deliberations on contentious cases like this.

  2. Neftali

    Today is a huge win for those wanting equal marriage rights, but the fight is far from over. Two quick points:

    1 – It will be interesting next April 15th for tax filing day. Same sex couples can now file jointly for purposes of federal filing and receive equal benefits for stuff like Social Security and disability. However, for those that reside in states where LGBT rights are not recognized, they will still have to file separately for the state portion of their taxes. In other words, it will be big mess until same sex marriage is inevitably recognized in all states.

    2 – On SCOTUSblog, someone asked if corporations that previously did not recognize same sex couples for purposes of pension benefits will be forced to now do so. The response from legal guru Amy Howe was “no.” Expect a legal challenge to this sometime down the road.

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