AIDS Issues Update Blog

Dispatches from the fight against homelessness and AIDS

SCOTUS Delivers Great News—Second Class Marriage Now History

Posted by Sunny Bjerk , June 26, 2013

SCOTUS Delivers Great News—Second Class Marriage Now History


In case you haven’t yet heard, this morning the Supreme Court of the United States released their ruling that found the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) unconstitutional. In particular, the Supreme Court found that the 1996 federal law violated the Constitution’s Fifth Amendment, which guarantees the protection of equal liberty.

The decision—like many other of the SCOTUS decisions revealed this week, including the surprising Voting Rights Act decision—fell along ideological lines, with a 5-4 decision. The Justices in the majority: Justices Anthony Kennedy, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Stephen Breyer, Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan, argued that DOMA existed for no other reason than to “ identify a subset of state-sanctioned marriages and make them unequal,” Justice Kennedy wrote for the majority. The written opinion also stated, ““DOMA instructs all federal officials, and indeed all persons with whom same-sex couples interact, including their own children, that their marriage is less worthy than the marriages of others.”

While DOMA is no longer the law of the land, it is important to note that it doesn’t force or even obligate the States to pass same-sex marriage in their jurisdictions. Rather, the overturning of DOMA means that same-sex couples who are married will now be eligible for the 1,000+ spousal benefits distributed at the federal level (Social Security, family leave, etc.).

In addition, the Supreme Court also refused to rule on California’s infamous Proposition 8, which sought to solely define marriage as between “one man and one woman,” stating that Prop 8 supporters/anti-same-sex advocates “lacked the legal standing to appeal a lower court’s decision against it.” In other words, California’s ban against same-sex marriage will not be upheld and L.A. County said that they were “prepared to begin issuing marriage licenses and performing ceremonies for gay couples” after the ruling is put into effect.

As many bloggers and news outlets have reported, these two monumental rulings come exactly 10 years after the Supreme Court overturned the archaic anti-sodomy laws in the country and many major cities celebrate Gay Pride in the coming weekend.

While the world continues to suffer injustices, let’s take a moment to relish this victory as a sign of many more to come.

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