Wednesday saw the news that the U.S. Supreme Court decided that the law barring the federal government from recognizing same-sex marriages legalized by the states is unconstitutional.
“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,” Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote in the majority opinion.
“By seeking to displace this protection and treating those persons as living in marriages less respected than others, the federal statute is in violation of the Fifth Amendment,” he added.
As expected, the judges fell short of a broader ruling which would have provided gay couples with a fundamental right to marry, meaning that there will be no impact in the more than 30 states that do not recognize same-sex marriages.
The two cases concerned the constitutionality of a key part of a federal law, the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), that denied any rights of same-sex marriages, and a voter-approved California state law enacted in 2008, called Proposition 8, that banned gay marriage.
The court ruled that Section 3 of the bill, that claimed that marriage is a union as between a man and a woman for the purposes of federal benefits, doesn’t correspond to the U.S. Constitution’s guarantee of equal protection under the law.
The ruling became a victory for President Barack Obama’s administration, which announced two years ago that would not stand for the law in court.
Obama welcome Wednesday’s ruling and directed U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder to review all relevant federal laws to ensure that it is implemented, reports Reuters.
By striking down Section 3 of the law, the Supreme Court cleared the way for legally married couples to claim more than 1,100 federal benefits, rights and burdens linked to marriage status.
Kennedy wrote for the majority that the federal law, as passed by Congress, violated the U.S. Constitution’s guarantee of equal protection.
“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,” Kennedy wrote.
The law imposed “a stigma upon all who enter into same-sex marriages made lawful by the unquestioned authority of the states,” he added.
The ruling was a victory for more than 200 businesses, including Goldman Sachs Group, Microsoft Corp and Google Inc, that signed on to a brief urging the court to strike down DOMA. Thomson Reuters Corp, owner of the Reuters news agency, was another signatory.
“Today’s decisions help define who we are as a people, whether or not we are part of the group directly affected,” said Lloyd Blankfein, Goldman’s chief executive.
The Court’s rulings come amid rapid progress for advocates of same-sex unions in recent months and years. Opinion polls show a steady increase in U.S. public support for gay marriage.