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Supreme Court Strikes Down DOMA And Dismisses Prop. 8

Danielle Tarasiuk |
June 26, 2013 | 8:10 a.m. PDT

Deputy News Editor

(Wikipedia Commons)
(Wikipedia Commons)
The Supreme Court struck down a key part of The Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) Wednesday morning, in a 5-4 vote, declaring that legally married same sex couples deserves equal rights under federal law as other married couples. 

"By seeking to displace this protection and treating those persons as living in marriages less respected than others, the federal statute" violates the Constitution, Cheif Justice Anthony Kennedy said speaking for the majority. 

The ruling entitles more than 100,000 same sex married couples to tax breaks, pension rights and other benefits available to other married couples. 

DOMA was originally passed in 1996 in Congress with bipartisan support. 

From The Los Angeles Times

Four years ago, several gay couples who were married in Massachusetts launched a lawsuit to challenge DOMA, arguing it denied them equal protection of the laws. They won before a federal judge in Boston and before the federal appeals court there.

Their win prompted the Obama administration to switch course and join with the challengers, who said the law was discriminatory. House Republicans voted to take up the legal defense of the law.

When the issue reached the Supreme Court, the justices voted to decide a case brought by Edith Windsor, a New York widow who was sent a $363,000 estate tax bill by the Internal Revenue Service after her wife died in 2009.

The decision leaves in place another provision in the law that says no state is required to recognize gay marriages performed in any other state. That provision was not under challenge.

The Supreme Court also dismissed Pro. 8 in another 5-4 vote.

Prop 8. was the California state constitutional amendment that passed in November 2008, which stated the only marriage between a man and a woman was recognized in California. The dismissal of Prop. 8 allows same sex couples to marry in the state of California, but avoids making a decision on whether same sex marriage is a constitutionally protected right that would apply to all states. 

Chief Justice John Roberts speaking for the majority said that Prop. 8 did not have any legal standing, since the measure was already struck down by a federal judge in San Francisco. 

"We have never before upheld the standing of a private party to defend the constitutionality of a state statute when state officials have chosen not to. We decline to do so for the first time here," Chief Justice Roberts said. 

From The Los Angeles Times

The court’s action, while not a sweeping ruling, sends the case back to California, where state and federal judges and the state’s top officials have said same-sex marriage is a matter of equal rights.

Last fall, the high court agreed to hear a last-chance appeal from the sponsors of the 2008 ballot measure that limited marriage to the union of a man and a woman.

Federal courts in San Francisco had struck down the measure on the grounds that it unfairly discriminated against gays and lesbians who wished to marry.

Usually, the governor and state’s lawyers defend state laws in federal court, but both Gov. Jerry Brown and Atty. Gen.Kamala Harris refused to defend Prop. 8.

Several sponsors of the ballot measure stepped in to defend the law, but there were questions about whether they had legal standing to represent the state in court.


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