“The Supreme Court struck down a key part of the federal Defense of Marriage Act on Wednesday and declared that same-sex couples who are legally married deserve equal rights to the benefits under federal law that go to all other married couples,” according to The Los Angeles Times.
The ruling marks a key victory in the fight for gay rights. It eliminates the legal validity of DOMA which was adopted in 1996 to deny all benefits and recognition to same-sex couples. At that time, no states allowed gay marriage. Today, it is legal in 12 states and the District of Columbia.
Attitudes and opinions have been changing as the gay rights battle picks up more steam. A poll on the L.A. Times website showed 65 percent feeling the Supreme Court made the right decision and 35 percent against.
More Republicans have been coming out in favor of same-sex marriage as well. For example, Ken Mehlman of Project Right Side has spent the past few months working to convince other prominent Republicans that same-sex marriage is well within the bounds of traditional conservative values.
The recent vote was 5-4 in favor. Justices John Roberts, Antonin Scalia, Samuel Alito and Clarence Thomas voted against striking DOMA down while all others voted to repeal it.
“By seeking to displace this protection and treating those persons as living in marriages less respected than others, the federal statute violates the Constitution,” said Justice Anthony Kennedy.
This will affect at least 100,000 gay and lesbian couples. For those who are already legally married, they will be able to file taxes as married, claim pension rights and take advantage of benefits that are generally available to other married couples.
“Four years ago, several gay couples who were married in Massachusetts launched a lawsuit to challenge DOMA, arguing it denied them equal protection of the laws. They won before a federal judge in Boston and before the federal appeals court there,” said the L.A. Times.
When that happened, the Obama administration declared the law to be discriminatory. However, Republicans took that opposite standpoint and fought in defense of the law.
What will not change is that marriages are still only legally valid in the state they were sanctioned in. Other states are not required to recognize them.
However, as things continue to move toward a more tolerant stance on gay marriage, many believe that more states will pass legislation to allow gay marriage.