Supreme Court strikes down DOMA

Yeah. It’s in the Washington Post, right nearby, so it must be true.

The Supreme Court Wednesday struck down as unconstitutional the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act that denies federal benefits to same-sex couples who are legally married in the states where they reside.

The decision was 5 to 4, with Justice Anthony M. Kennedy joining the court’s liberals to form the majority. It did not address the question of whether there was a constitutional right to same-sex marriages.

But the court said it violated equal protection to provide benefits to heterosexual couples while denying them to gay couples in the 12 states plus the District of Columbia where same-sex couples may marry.

Now this is good:

“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,” Kennedy wrote.

“The federal statute is invalid, for no legitimate purpose overcomes the purpose and effect to disparage and to injure those whom the State, by its marriage laws, sought to protect in personhood and dignity.”

That’s good. I like that. On the one hand, the State sought to protect a set of people in personhood and dignity; on the other hand, DOMA sought to disparage and to injure that set of people. The people behind DOMA tried to pretend there was a legitimate purpose but that was bullshit.


  1. says

    Specifically, the stuck down only the part of DOMA that denies federal benefits to legally married same-sex couples. The part that allows states to refuse to recognize legal same-sex marriage despite the Full Faith and Credit clause remains active, as that was never brought into consideration by either of the marriage cases.

  2. Robert B. says

    Yeah, but as I’ve seen a few people point out now, imagine the subsequent lower court cases against the other sections of the law that can say, “SCOTUS says the purpose of DOMA was to hurt a certain class of people!” They punted on the recognition-in-other-states issue, but they didn’t punt it very far – they’ll be seeing a case on that issue within a year or two, if I read the momentum correctly.

  3. Rieux says

    I agree with both comments above regarding Windsor, this morning’s DOMA case.

    Meanwhile, the other big case decided today, Perry—the one involving Prop 8 (and the one that was the subject of a B&W post that I wrote, woot!)—got kicked out on standing grounds.

    I for one think that’s ridiculous. It certainly appears to me that the Court didn’t want to face the Equal Protection argument, so they cravenly decided to mangle the Court’s jurisprudence on standing rather than do their job regarding the merits. (They pulled the same cowardly trick nine years ago on Michael Newdow.) Bah.

    So Prop 8 is dead, and good riddance—but shame on the Supreme Court for shying away from saying so on principled legal grounds, the way the lower-court judges (Vaughn Walker, Stephen Reinhardt, and Michael Daly Hawkins) did.

  4. says

    @Robert B. #2 – I disagree that the Court punted on Windsor: they gave as favorable a decision as they could under our system of judicial appeal. And, as you noted (and as ranted by Scalia in his amusingly frothing at the mouth dissent), the idea that discrimination against same-sex couples is loathsome before the law is now a matter of common law that lower courts can cite as precedent. The only way this could have been better would have been if the ruling were 6-3.

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