WASHINGTON — The United States Supreme Court has struck down the federal Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), ruling that it violates the “dignity” of homosexuals in the country and states that decide to legalize homosexual “marriage.” It also declined to rule on California’s Proposition 8, stating that those who challenged the lower court’s ruling did not have standing to do so, thus leaving in place the decision that struck down the initiative as unconstitutional.
The DOMA ruling comes largely due to Justice Anthony Kennedy’s agreement with his liberal colleagues — Justices Ginsberg, Breyer, Sotomayor and Kagan — forming a 5-4 majority opinion. Justices Scalia, Thomas, Roberts and Alito dissented.
“The avowed purpose and practical effect of the law here in question are to impose a disadvantage, a separate status, and so a stigma upon all who enter into same-sex marriages made lawful by the unquestioned authority of the States,” 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.”
“DOMA’s principal effect is to identify and make unequal a subset of state-sanctioned marriages. It contrives to deprive some couples married under the laws of their State, but not others, of both rights and responsibilities, creating two contradictory marriage regimes within the same State,” he continued. “It also forces same-sex couples to live as married for the purpose of state law but unmarried for the purpose of federal law, thus diminishing the stability and predictability of basic personal relations the State has found it proper to acknowledge and protect.”
“[The law] tells those couples, and all the world, that their otherwise valid marriages are unworthy of federal recognition,” Kennedy opined.
The ruling means that homosexuals in the nation will be entitled to federal benefits that had previously been denied, such as pension benefits and tax breaks. It does not, however, force states that currently ban homosexual “marriage” to recognize same-sex relationships.
The Defense of Marriage Act was signed into law by then President Bill Clinton in September 1996 after clearing the House and Senate with overwhelming support. In addition to providing a federal definition of marriage, the law bars homosexual relationships from being recognized by the IRS or the Social Security Administration, and also excludes homosexuals that serve as government workers from being recognized as a couple in order to obtain insurance benefits.
As previously reported, approximately 250 high-profile corporations and general business entities lent their name earlier this year to an amicus brief that challenged the federal Defense of Marriage Act. Google Inc., Microsoft Corp., Amazon, Inc., Starbucks Corp., Citigroup, Inc., Marriott International, Inc., Johnson and Johnson, Walt Disney Corp., the Jim Henson Company (the Muppets), Twitter, Inc. and the pharmaceutical company Pfizer were all included among those who supported same-sex “marriage.”
However, it also received over two dozen briefs supporting Biblical marriage. Attorney generals from 19 states filed joint briefs with the Supreme Court in favor of marriage remaining between a man and woman, and at least four legal organizations discussed the religious liberty concerns that the legalization of homosexual “marriage” would raise.
Additionally, three African American groups explained to the court their belief that homosexuality cannot be compared to matters of race or interracial marriage. Approximately 37 legal scholars contended that the states should have the right to preserve marriage and not be forced to do otherwise, and 17 judges and scholars spoke of how international law does not support redefining marriage. Self-identified homosexual and bisexual individuals even expressed their support for leaving marriage the way it has been from the beginning of creation.
During oral argument in March, Obama appointee Sonia Sotomayor seemed to question where the line would be drawn if the court affirmed homosexual “marriage.”
“If you say that marriage is a fundamental right, what state restrictions could ever exist?” she inquired. “Meaning, what state restrictions with respect to the number of people, with respect to the incest laws, the mother and child, assuming that they are the age — I can accept that the state has probably an overbearing interest on protecting a child until they’re of age to marry, but what’s left?”
However, Justice Anthony Kennedy raised doubt as to whether the federal government had jurisdiction to decide on the matter, and whether the court should simply leave the issue up to the states.
“The question is,” he asserted, “whether or not the federal government … has the authority to regulate marriage.”
“[DOMA] has 1,100 laws, which in our society means that the federal government is intertwined with the citizens’ day-to-day life, you are at real risk of running in conflict with what has always been thought to be the essence of the state police power, which is to regulate marriage, divorce, custody,” he said.
Kennedy apparently agreed with his liberal colleagues since the hearing, forming a majority opinion. States retain their sovereignty with today’s ruling.
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