GAY MARRIAGE VICTORIES: Supreme Court Strikes Down Marriage Act, California Proposition; THE DECISION; Married Couples Can Collect Federal Benefits; Marriages Will Resume in California

By Sherman, Mark | St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO), June 27, 2013 | Go to article overview

GAY MARRIAGE VICTORIES: Supreme Court Strikes Down Marriage Act, California Proposition; THE DECISION; Married Couples Can Collect Federal Benefits; Marriages Will Resume in California


Sherman, Mark, St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)


WASHINGTON * In a historic victory for gay rights, the Supreme Court struck down on Wednesday a provision of a federal law denying federal benefits to married same-sex couples and cleared the way for the resumption of such marriage in California.

The justices issued two 5-4 rulings in their final session of the term. One decision wiped away part of a federal anti-gay marriage law that has kept legally married same-sex couples from receiving tax, health and pension benefits.

The other was a technical ruling that said nothing at all about same-sex marriage, but left in place a trial court's declaration that California's Proposition 8 is unconstitutional. Gov. Jerry Brown quickly ordered that marriage licenses be issued to same-sex couples as soon as a federal appeals court lifts its hold on the lower court ruling, potentially next month.

In neither case did the court make an overall statement either in favor of or against same-sex marriage. And in a sign that neither victory was complete for gay rights, the high court said nothing about the validity of same-sex marriage bans in California and roughly three dozen other states. A separate provision of the federal marriage law that allows a state to not recognize a same- sex union from elsewhere remains in place.

President Barack Obama praised the court's ruling on the federal marriage act, which he labeled "discrimination enshrined in law."

"It treated loving, committed gay and lesbian couples as a separate and lesser class of people," Obama said in a statement. "The Supreme Court has righted that wrong, and our country is better off for it."

House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, said he was disappointed in the outcome of the federal marriage case and hoped states continue to define marriage as the union of a man and a woman.

The ruling in the California case was not along ideological lines. Chief Justice John Roberts wrote the majority opinion, joined by Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Stephen Breyer, Elena Kagan and Antonin Scalia.

"We have no authority to decide this case on the merits, and neither did the 9th Circuit," Roberts said, referring to the federal appeals court that also struck down Proposition 8.

In the case involving the federal Defense of Marriage Act, Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote the majority opinion, joined by the court's liberal justices.

"Under DOMA, same-sex married couples have their lives burdened, by reason of government decree, in visible and public ways," Kennedy said. "DOMA's principal effect is to identify a subset of state- sanctioned marriages and make them unequal."

Some in the crowd outside the court hugged and others jumped up and down just after 9 a.m. St. …

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