The U.S. Supreme Court delivered a landmark victory for gay rights on Wednesday by forcing the federal government to recognize same-sex marriage in states where it is legal and paving the way for it in California, the most populous state.
Today the Supreme Court struck down as unconstitutional a key part of the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act, (DOMA) which denies federal benefits to same-sex couples who are legally married in the state where they reside.
As expected, however, the court fell short of a broader ruling endorsing a fundamental right for gay people to marry, meaning that there will be no impact in the more than 30 states that do not recognize gay marriage.
The court struck down Section 3 of DOMA, which limited the definition of marriage as between a man and a woman for the purposes of federal benefits, as a violation of the U.S. Constitution’s guarantee of equal protection under the law.
“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 Anthony Kennedy, 76, appointed to the court by Republican President Ronald Reagan in 1988, was the key vote and wrote the DOMA opinion, the third major gay rights ruling he has authored since 1996.
In a separate opinion, the court ducked a decision on Proposition 8 by finding that supporters of the California law did not have standing to appeal a federal district court ruling that struck it down. By doing so, the justices let stand the lower-court ruling that had found the ban unconstitutional.
Chief Justice John Roberts wrote the Proposition 8 opinion, ruling along procedural lines in a way that said nothing about how the court would rule on the merits. The court was split upon unusual lines, with liberals and conservatives in the majority and the dissent.
My Two Cents:
I have long felt DOMA and the many efforts by the states to restrict marriage were morally wrong and unconstitutional.
Marriage as recognized by governments; local, state, and federal are sectarian, based in law not on religious dogma, which is as it should be given the basic tenet of separation of church and state. As such it should been seen as an equal provision for all, no matter their gender and should never have been restricted by what are clearly the direction of religious agencies.
That is not to say any religious group should be forced to provide a service which stands against their beliefs, yet the freedom of a group to deny such services should in no way affect a persons opportunity to have such services provided by the state in a nondiscriminatory manner.