Today, the Supreme Court issued mixed rulings on gay marriage.
In United States v. Windsor, the case that challenged the 1996 federal Defense of Marriage Act, the Court overturned DOMA on grounds of equal protection as per the Fifth Amendment. With a 5-4 decision, the majority opinion was penned by Justice Anthony Kennedy: “DOMA singles out a class of persons deemed by a State entitled to recognition and protection to enhance their own liberty.” Justices Ginsburg, Breyer, Sotomayor, and Kagan joined him.
With dissenting opinions were Chief Justice John Roberts and Justice Scalia. Justices Thomas and Alito joined them.
With this ruling, the same federal benefits that are currently available to heterosexual couples must now be made available to gay couples in the 12 states and D.C. where gay marriages are recognized. These include matters relating to Social Security benefits and income taxes, for example.
In Hollingsworth v. Perry, the case that challenged California’s Proposition 8 which banned gay marriage, the Court ruled that Prop. 8 supporters lacked legal standing. The case was vacated and remanded to the district court under the justification that the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals lacked standing to take the appeal. In a 5-4 decision, Chief Justice Roberts wrote the majority opinion. “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.” He was joined by Justices Scalia, Ginsburg, Breyer, and Kagan.
Those dissenting included Justice Kennedy, who authored the opinion, as well as Justices Thomas, Alito, and Sotomayor.
This decision means that the trial judge’s original ruling in California that invalidated Prop. 8 still stands. No other states are affected.
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