The gay rights movement saw a
significant victory at the Supreme Court Monday, even as the court dodged the
fundamental issue of whether marriage is a constitutionally-protected right for
all couples, gay or straight.
In a 5-4 ruling in United States v. Windsor, the court
struck down a provision of the 17-year-old Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) that
denies federal benefits -- like Social Security benefits or the ability to file
joint tax returns -- to same-sex couples legally married.
"DOMA is unconstitutional as
a deprivation of the equal liberty of persons that is protected by the Fifth
Amendment," Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote for the majority. Kennedy was
joined by Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Stephen Breyer, Sonia Sotomayor and
At the same time, the court ruled 5-4 that
the defendants in the case of Hollingsworth v. Perry,
which considered the constitutionality of California's same-sex marriage ban
(called Proposition 8), have no standing in court. Supporters of Prop. 8
brought the case to the Supreme Court after a lower court struck down the law
but California's governor and attorney general declined to defend it. By
dismissing the case on procedural grounds, the court passed up the opportunity
to issue a significant ruling on the issue of marriage.
Chief Justice John Roberts wrote
the majority opinion, joined by Justices Antonin Scalia, Ginsburg, Breyer and
The decision for United States v Windsor (the DOMA ruling)
can be read in full here;
Hollingsworth v Perry (the Prop 8 ruling) can be read here.
More to come!