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WASHINGTON, D.C. – The Supreme Court of the United States ended its 2012-2013 session with rulings that the Defense of Marriage Act is unconstitutional and sent California’s Proposition 8 back to the state courts. It ruled that the defendants in the Prop 8 case did not have proper standing, and thus the issue is sent back to the California courts.
DOMA was a 1996 law barring couples in same-sex marriages from the 1,138 benefits related to marital status, such as federal work benefits, tax deductions and pension benefits.
Speaking for the 5-4 majority, Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy said that creating different rights for different married couples was a violation the Fifth Amendment’s equal liberty.
However, benefits would only be available to same-sex couples living in states where same-sex marriage is recognized. For example, a couple married in Massachusetts could not collect federal marriage benefits in North Carolina.
In the Prop 8 case, the ballot measure was defended by ProtectMarriage.com and not the state of California itself.
Speaking for the 5-4 majority, Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts said that the private organization lacked standing and therefore the court could not rule on the case.
Now Prop 8 goes back to the last ruling in California to have the proper parties representing both sides. In that case, federal judge Vaughn Walker struck down Prop 8 as unconstitutional.
There are differing conclusions in California as to whether same-sex marriage is legal in the state again, but the city attorney of San Francisco has already said that he is planning to enforce same-sex marriages throughout the state if any county office tries to block it.
Congressman David Price on SCOTUS Rulings
“Today’s historic Supreme Court rulings affirms that we have nothing to lose, and everything to gain, from extending liberty and equality to all our citizens. The so-called Defense of Marriage Act denied millions of Americans equality under the law and access to federal benefits. I continue to believe that no one should be denied a chance at the happiness—or the rights and responsibilities—that marriage brings. Although many states continue to treat same-sex couples as second class citizens, it is clear that equal protection under the law for all Americans is only a matter of time and that history will judge these efforts at discrimination harshly. Today’s rulings are a victory for all who believe in an America that does not discriminate on the basis of race, gender, age religion or sexual orientation.”