SCOTUS strikes down DOMA, allows for same-sex marriage in California

The Supreme Court on Wednesday handed down its long-awaited decisions on two significant same-sex marriage cases, marking steps forward in the push for equal rights for gays and lesbians.

In a 5-4 vote in United States v. Windsor, the Court struck down the Defense of Marriage Act, which blocked legally married same-sex couples from accessing the same federal benefits as married opposite-sex pairs. It also dismissed the appeal of Proposition 8 supporters in Hollingsworth v. Perry, stating they did not have the constitutional right to defend the law, which bans same-sex marriage in California. The decision allows same-sex marriage to resume in the state.

Enacted in 1996, DOMA denied a slew of federal benefits to legally married same-sex couples, including family leave, Social Security benefits for survivors and rights for immigrants. In the majority opinion, Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote DOMA violated the Fifth Amendment’s guarantee of equal liberty.

“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 marriage of others,” Kennedy wrote.

Proposition 8 was approved by 52 percent of California voters in 2008 after the state Supreme Court legalized same-sex marriage, but was later deemed unconstitutional by a federal appeals court. While the Court’s 5-4 decision once again makes same-sex marriage possible in California, the ruling did not address whether it is a right guaranteed by “equal protection” in all states.

But even with this uncertainty, many proponents of equal rights for same-sex couples are celebrating. Edith Windsor, the plaintiff who brought the DOMA case to the Supreme Court, expressed her excitement at a news conference in Manhattan.

“We won and got everything we hoped for,” she said.