Friday, June 28, 2013

In Landmark Ruling, US Supreme Court Strikes Down Defense of Marriage Act

Seventeen years after a Democratic President signed a federal law defining marriage as between a man and a woman, the U.S. Supreme Court struck it down on Wednesday, capping one of the fastest civil rights shifts in the nation’s history.

In a landmark 5-4 decision, the Justices ruled that the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), passed by bipartisan majorities and signed by President Bill Clinton, is an unconstitutional violation of the Fifth Amendment.

The court broke along familiar ideological lines, with Justice Anthony Kennedy, who authored the majority opinion, joining his four more liberal counterparts. “DOMA is unconstitutional as a deprivation of the equal liberty of persons that is protected by the Fifth Amendment,” Kennedy wrote. Chief Justice John Roberts, Justice Antonin Scalia and Justice Samuel Alito filed separate dissents to the court’s decision. Scalia delivered a lengthy and scathing oral dissent in court after the decision was announced.

The offending section of the law, which sailed through Congress in 1996, restricted gay couples from receiving more than 1,000 benefits accorded to married couples, even if they were legally married in the states where they reside. In a forceful indictment of the law, Kennedy cited the contradictions between state and federal statutes as among the reasons for striking down the measure.

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