26 June 2013

At Supreme Court, a double victory for marriage equality

In an historic double victory, two decisions came out of the U.S. Supreme Court this morning that favor same-sex marriage.

In the case of United States v. Windsor, the Court struck down the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) as unconstitutional. DOMA had defined marriage for all federal purposes as a legal union between a man and a woman, thereby depriving same-sex couple of federal benefits.

Writing for the majority, Justice Kennedy explained: "DOMA’s principal effect is to identify and make unequal a subset of state-sanctioned marriages. It contrives to deprive some couples married under the laws of their State, but not others, of both rights and responsibilities, creating two contradictory marriage regimes within the same State."

Justices Ginsburg, Breyer, Sotomayor, and Kagan, joined Kennedy.

Not surprisingly, conservative Justices Roberts, Scalia, Thomas, and Alito dissented.

Then, in Hollingsworth v. Perry, the Court dismissed Proposition 8, the 2008 California ballot initiative which struck down same-sex marriage in that state.

Here, Justices Roberts, Scalia, Ginsburg, Breyer, & Kagan formed a very interesting majority.

Kennedy, Thomas, Alito, and Sotomayor (!) dissented.

Unlike the DOMA case, the Prop 8 case was decided on a technicality - specifically on the Court's belief that Prop 8 proponents did not have legal standing to pursue the case since the state had refused to do so. (In other words, no vigilate justice allowed!)

Nevertheless, today's decision killed Prop 8 and restored same-sex marriage in California.

While these two decisions do not affect any of the U.S. states that have not yet legalized same-sex marriage, they reinforce the notion that the tide is turning in favor of LGBT rights. That in itself is clearly worth celebrating.

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