Equality Wins the Day!

DOMA_Prop8_ruling“DOMA is unconstitutional as a deprivation of the equal liberty of persons that is protected by the Fifth Amendment.” – Justice Kennedy

With these 19 words, the Supreme Court ruled that section three of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), the federal law barring same-sex couples from receiving federal benefits, cannot stand and that the government must recognize legally wedded same-sex unions. It was a truly historic decision that will have far-reaching implications for all Americans.

In Perry v. Hollingsworth, a  case challenging a Ninth Circuit court ruling that California’s Proposition 8 was unconstitutional, the high court decided that the proponents of Prop 8 had no standing to bring a challenge to the Supreme Court. The case was sent back to the Ninth Circuit with instructions for it to dismiss the case, and make the Federal District Court, finding Prop. 8 unconstitutional, governing law.


So, what does this all mean? In Perry, it is likely that same-sex couples can now resume being married in the state of California. So in the largest state in the country that has the largest Latino population of any state, same-sex couples will for the time being enjoy the same benefits of opposite sex couples.  In the DOMA case, the demise of the Clinton-era law paves the way for legally married same-sex couples (it’s now legal in 13 states and the District of Columbia) to enjoy all the benefits and responsibilities that the federal government confers upon married opposite sex couples. The Supreme Court’s ruling means that all married couples, including same-sex couples, should be treated as married by the federal government no matter where they live so long as the state recognizes that marriage.


“The Court explained that the states have long had the responsibility of regulating and defining marriage, and some states have opted to allow same-sex couples to marry to give them the protection and dignity associated with marriage. By denying recognition to same-sex couples who are legally married, federal law discriminates against them to express disapproval of state-sanctioned same-sex marriage. This decision means that same-sex couples who are legally married must now be treated the same under federal law as married opposite-sex couples.

The decision on DOMA also has implications for the 267,000 bi-national couples living in the United States. According to an Immigration Equality press release, lesbian and gay Americans will now be eligible to apply for green cards on behalf of their foreign national spouses an issue that was not addressed in Senate immigration legislation.  This is an especially welcome move as thousands of Latino couples will be affected.

The other decision handed down today was on the California law known as Proposition 8. The law overturned that legislature’s decision to allow for same-sex marriages. Citing no legal standing on the behalf of those who brought forth the challenge, the Court’s decision today means the swift restoration of the freedom to marry in California.

The Supremes stopped short of extending same-sex marriage to all the states, and there is still much work to be done in California and elsewhere where same-sex marriages are not recognized, but make no mistake: this is a victory for equality in America. 

We’ll have much more analysis later today and this week, so be sure to check back here for more information. In the meantime, savor this historic moment and go celebrate!

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