The Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), a law that prevented gay marriages from being recognized legally by the federal government (and thereby left spouses in those marriages without many benefits) has been ruled unconstitutional in a 5-4 decision by the Supreme Court.
First of all:
Now, actual information besides just my giddy excitement explained in GIFs: the bill was originally signed in 1996 by President Bill Clinton, keeping same-sex marriages recognized by the state from being acknowledged by the federal government.
Justice Anthony Kennedy delivered the court’s decision, writing:
“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. By seeking to displace this protection and treating those persons as living in marriages less respected than others, the federal statute is in violation of the Fifth Amendment.”
Justices Stephen Breyer, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan joined Kennedy, while Chief Justice John Roberts and Justices Samuel Alito and Antonin Scalia filed dissenting opinions against the ruling.
After Edith Windsor, 84, experienced the death of her wife Thea Speyer, she was forced to pay extra for a $363,000 inheritance tax because their marriage — which occurred in Toronto in 2007 — was not recognized by the federal government of the United States. Heterosexual spouses do not have to pay any tax when inheriting estate from dead partners, so Windsor challenged the constitutionality of DOMA.
Here’s what our president had to say:
— Barack Obama (@BarackObama) June 26, 2013
As for California and Proposition 8, its ban on same-sex marriage, the Supreme Court found that its private sponsors had no legal standing.
“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,” said Chief Justice John Roberts. “We decline to do so for the first time here.”
While this is a generally happy day, it is important to recognize how much effort went into both sides of this argument — people spent millions upon millions of dollars to prevent people getting married, while others spent millions of dollars and countless hours trying to prevent the first group from preventing same-sex marriage. The fact that there needs to be this much of a fight means that we still have a long, long way to go before equality for all sexualities is a universal concept, legally and societally.
But for now:
Photo: Portokalis / Shutterstock