Supreme Court Rules 5-4 that DOMA is unconstitutional


The Supreme Court issued rulings on two highly-anticipated cases on gay marriage today. By 5-4, it ruled the federal Defense of Marriage Act, which defines marriage as a union between one man and one woman, is unconstitutional.

But in a separate ruling, it declined to take on the broader issue of gay marriage. The court decided supporters of Prop 8, a 2008 ballot measure that outlawed same-sex marriages in the state, did not have standing to bring the case to the court.

NPR’s Carrie Johnson explains: “By a holding of 5-4 with Chief Justice John Roberts in the majority, the Supreme Court rules the petitioners lack standing so the court avoids the underlying issues, remands and wipes away the decision by 9th Circuit Court of appeals, which means for now the lower court ruling invalidating California’s Prop 8 stands.”

That means gay marriages in California may resume but the ruling does not have a broader implication across the country.

The Defense of Marriage Act case is simpler. As SCOTUSblog reports, the court struck down the federal law because it denies same-sex couples the “equal liberty” guaranteed by the Fifth Amendment.

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.

This decision means that legally married same-sex couples are now entitled to the same federal benefits as married opposite sex couples.

Court Overturns DOMA, Sidesteps Broad Gay Marriage Ruling : The Two-Way : NPR

Full Decision:


The dissenting opinion by Justice Roberts:

I agree with JUSTICE SCALIA that this Court lacks jurisdiction to review the decisions of the courts below. On the merits of the constitutional dispute the Court decides todecide, I also agree with JUSTICE SCALIA that Congressacted constitutionally in passing the Defense of MarriageAct (DOMA). Interests in uniformity and stability amply justified Congress’s decision to retain the definition of marriage that, at that point, had been adopted by everyState in our Nation, and every nation in the world. Post, at 19–20 (dissenting opinion)


I’m not surprised.


Took them long enough


Scalia gave it pretty good to the President and the majority for lack of back bone

There is no justification for the Justice Department’s abandoning the law in the present case. The majority opinion makes a point of scolding the President for his “failure to defend the constitutionality of an Act of Congress based on a constitutional theory not yet established in judicial decisions,” But the rebuke is tongue in-cheek, for the majority gladly gives the President what he wants. Contrary to all precedent, it decides this case (and even decides it the way the President wishes) despite his abandonment of the defense and the consequent absence of a case or controversy.


To do what? make a 5-4 vote that falls along ideological lines, seems like nearly every major case these days comes down the same way. Not to mention that Obama’s administration has been sabotaging the laws he doesnt like.

Studies show that, in the past, the solicitor general won approximately 70 percent of its cases in the Supreme Court. That’s why the solicitor general is often referred to as the “10th justice.”

This term, however, the executive branch has lost far more cases than it has won. Although there are still some decisions to come—and one or two cases are mixed decisions that are hard to categorize—so far the court has clearly decided 24 cases in which the United States was a party. Fifteen of those cases went against the government, while only 9 sided with the administration. That’s a winning percentage of only 37 percent—a huge drop from historical patterns.

The court’s rejection of the Obama administration’s positions extends to cases in which the United States filed a “friend of the court” brief but was not officially a party to the litigation. In these cases, the court has rejected the arguments of the administration in 15 cases, while siding with the government in only 12. That’s a winning percentage of 44 percent.



To strike down DOMA, it was passed in 1996, it is now 2013.


Thats only 17 years. Every one, including Slick Willie, thought it was constitutional then. Did I miss the constitution being amended between then and now?


It ceased to be Constitutional when Obama said it was unconstitutional.


Clearly everyone, including Slick Willie was mistaken.


5-4 doesnt seem obvious, it seems like a politically charged court due to Obama’s torpedoing of the govt arguments


What Obama did, or did not do is irrelevant the law is still unconstitutional no matter who is defending it. Even if you’re against same-sex marriage from a legal standpoint the law makes no sense…this should be especially true to the various constitutionalists on this forum.


Actually it is since the SCTOUS, like all other courts, makes its opinions based on the arguments presented. Obama has brought junk to the table and has gotten walked all over.


I seem to recall the GOP led House of Reps. was primarily defending DOMA, they likely gave the act a better defense than the Obama administration would have. As for politics you’ll notice that the prop. 8 decision was a mixture of “liberal” and “conservative” justices in a completely separate 5-4 decision.


Would have but not could have. For a “constitutional lawyer” Obama’s track record has been abysmal. Obama has been the ultimate divider overreaching his power for stuff he supports and completely giving up on already enacted things he doesnt support.

As for politics you’ll notice that the prop. 8 decision was a mixture of “liberal” and “conservative” justices in a completely separate 5-4 decision.

Prop 8 wasnt decided on the merits of the case though, only that it couldnt be decided at a federal level


The Proposition 8 “decision” was an act of voter disenfranchement so cowardly even the infamous Ninth Circuit Court wouldn’t do it. Very briefly, here’s what happened: CA voters passed a state constitutional amendment; then AG Brown and his successor refused to defend it in court, as a way to have Proposition 8 overturned by default judgment; the proponents of Proposition 8 persuaded the Ninth to allow them to defend it it, and the Ninth agreed; today, the SCOTUS affirmed Jerry Bown’s act of tyranny. This leaves open an avenue for CA voters to either force a rehearing of Proposition 8 or have Son-of-Proposition 8 go through the mill: amend CA’s constitution to allow proponents of a ballot measure to defend their measure should a CA AG again try to overturn a ballot measure by refusing to defend it.

One footnote, by “deciding” the Proposition 8 case as they did, the SCOTUS may have limited the scope of the actual decision - made by Thelton Henderson - to CA or just the Ninth Circuit. IOW, many/most/all of states whose laws define marriage as Proposition 8 did may not be affected by today’s “decision”.

Personally, I am POed at having my vote (and the votes of millions of CA-ians) stolen, again, by judicial tyranny!


Only 12 states permit same sex marriage. DOMA doesn’t give them anymore rights than they started the day with. If they want marriage rights they can go to one of those states. I have commented on this on PressThePresident. I suggest all do the same and tell me what you think of it.


Actually 13 now

SCOTUS effectively neutralized the 9th Circuit decision, only Judge Walker’s original ruling (district court) will stand. So yeah it’ll only have an effect on CA.


Actually it does, namely the federal rights and privileges that before were only granted to man-woman marriages, but which will now be extended to all marriages, gay or straight.


Government of the People is dead, stick a fork in it.