In a huge victory for gay rights, the Supreme Court ruled Wednesday that The Defense of Marriage Act, which bans the federal government from recognizing same-sex marriage, is unconstitutional.
“By seeking to displace this protection and treating those persons as living in marriages less respected than others, the federal statute is in violation of the Fifth Amendment,” Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote, delivering the court’s decision in a 5-4 majority vote.
Although same-sex marriage is recognized by several states, under DOMA, those couples have not been allowed the same benefits granted to straight couples in the United States, like Social Security, pensions and joint tax returns. President Bill Clinton signed DOMA in 1996.
President Barack Obama called the ruling “a historic step forward” on Twitter with the hash tags #MarriageEquality and #LoveIsLove.
The majority ruling was written by Justice Anthony Kennedy. Dissents were written by Chief Justice John Roberts, Justice Antonin Scalia and Justice Samuel Alito.
Justice Kennedy delivered the court’s opinion alongside Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Stephen Breyer, Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan.
Dissenting opinions were filed by Chief Justice John Roberts and Justices Antonin Scalia and Samuel Alito.
In United States v. Windsor, the court ruled in favor of 84-year-old plaintiff Edie Windsor, who sued the federal government for a $363,000 estate tax return denied to her by the IRS after her spouse died in 2009.
“DOMA violates basic due process and equal protection principles applicable to the federal government,” the court’s decision continues. “Under DOMA same-sex married couples have their lives burdened, by reason of government decree, in visible and public ways.”
The court also sent the Proposition 8 case back to a lower court, which strikes down the same-sex marriage ban in California.