Big win for gays; US court rejects DOMA

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(UPDATED) Voting 5-4, the US Supreme Court strikes down the law that defines marriage as between a man and a woman

Gay rights activists react in Washington DC after the US Supreme Court struck down the controversial Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA). Photo by AFP/Mladen Antonov

WASHINGTON DC, United States (5th Update) – The United States Supreme Court on Wednesday, June 26, ruled that the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), which defines marriage as between a man and a woman, is unconstitutional. 

In another decision, the US Supreme Court also repealed the controversial Proposition 8, paving the way for same-sex marriage in California to resume. 

US President Barack Obama welcomed the news. “This was discrimination enshrined in law. It treated loving, committed gay and lesbian couples as a separate and lesser class of people. The Supreme Court has righted that wrong, and our country is better off for it,” he said in a statement. 


Voting 5-4, the court said DOMA deprives American citizens of equal liberty, a violation of the Fifth Amendment. The ruling will allow federal benefits–tax breaks, insurance for government employees–to couples in the 12 states and DC that already recognize same-sex marriage.

Meanwhile, the court opted not to take up a case brought by opponents of same-sex marriage in California, effectively opening the door for gay couples to wed in the western US state.

The nine justices had been asked to rule on the constitutionality of California’s Proposition 8, a 2008 ballot initiative that saw the nation’s most populous state ban same-sex marriage. Activists had petitioned the Supreme Court to confirm Prop 8, which had been invalidated by a lower court. 

Polar reactions

“Now we will be married and be equal to every other family in California,” said Kris Perry, a plaintiff in the Proposition 8 case, alongside her partner Sandy Stier on the Supreme Court steps.

“Thank you to the Constitution … but it’s not enough,” added Stier. “It’s got to go nationwide. This can’t wait decades” for marriage equality to be legalized in all 50 states.

Obama, who left Washington for a tour of Africa just an hour before the rulings were issued, is the first serving US president ever to come out publicly in favor of marriage equality.

Paul Katami and Jeffrey Zarrillo kiss after Katami asked Zarrillo to marry him before members of the media, outside the Supreme Court in Washington DC after the US Supreme Court struck down as unconstitutional a federal law that prohibits the US government from recognizing gay marriage and providing benefits to same-sex couples. Photo by EPA/Michael Reynolds

There was outrage, however, among social conservatives.

“The DOMA ruling has now made the normalization of polygamy, pedophilia, incest and bestiality inevitable,” said Bryan Fischer, director of issue analysis at the American Family Association.

“With the DOMA decision, we have ceased to be a constitutional republic,” he said on his Twitter feed.

Fifty-three percent of Americans say same-sex marriage should be legally recognized, according to a Gallup survey in May that echoed a string of similar findings by other polling organizations.

The fight against DOMA was spearheaded by Edith Windsor, a New Yorker hit with a $363,000 estate tax bill after the 2009 death of her lifelong partner Thea Spyer, who she had married in Canada.

Had the couple been straight, the tax bill would have been significantly reduced. – with Agence France-Presse

Here’s the full text of the DOMA decision:

Here’s the full text of the Prop 8 ruling:

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