In an historic milestone for equality, the U.S. Supreme Court struck down the key section of a federal law that was written specifically to bar recognition and benefits for same-sex couples with marriage licenses obtained in states that have legalized same-sex marriage. Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote the majority opinion, and Chief Justice John Roberts wrote the dissent.
In a 5 to 4 vote, the high court struck down the core provision of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), Section 3, which bars federal recognition of same-sex marriages for the purpose of federal benefits.
The opinion comes on the heels of a string of decisions by state legislatures to approve marriage equality for same-sex couples. Since November of last year, six have done so. With California’s Proposition 8 being struck in a separate decision June 26, 13 states plus the District of Columbia will now treat same- and opposite couples equally in the eyes of the law.
The full scope of the impact of the ruling in U.S. v. Windsor will take time to sort out. For instance, legal activists say they may still need to take some actions make sure the federal government recognizes the marriage licenses of same-sex couples who live in states that do not recognize the marriage licenses they obtained in other states and countries.
In a brief to the Supreme Court, the Williams Institute estimated that about 114,000 same-sex couples in the United States have marriage licenses.
Read the full decision and celebrate!