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.
Full Decision: http://www.supremecourt.gov/opinions/12pdf/12-307_g2bh.pdf