By John Clark
In a landmark decision, the Supreme Court ruled this week that the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) was unconstitutional, which will force the federal government to recognize same-sex marriages from states where such unions are legal, according to a Reuters report.
DOMA, signed into law in 1996 by President Clinton, denied federal benefits to gay married couples, even if their marriages were valid under state law.
The decision, which eked through the Supreme Court by a 5-4 vote, technically struck down Section 3 of the Act, which narrowed the definition of marriage to a union between a man and a woman in order to withhold federal benefits from same-sex couples.
And the decision will have a broad impact on same-sex couples. Sources say the Court extended more than 1,100 federal benefits and rights to same-sex married couples by overturning Section 3 of DOMA.
In the decision, which was written by Justice William Kennedy, who was appointed to the bench in 1988 by President Reagan, the Court said Section 3 violated the U.S. Constitution’s promise to extend equal protection to all Americans under federal law.
“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, said Kennedy.
Kennedy further noted that the Defense of Marriage Act imposed an unfair “stigma upon all who enter into same-sex marriages made lawful by the unquestioned authority of the states.”
But while the decision to overturn DOMA was a watershed moment in American marriage law, the Court did not go so far as to endorse a fundamental right of gay marriage, sources say.
However, if California legalized gay marriage, which is expected to happen soon, roughly a third of Americans will live in states where same-sex marriage is legal, according to reports.
The Court’s decision was viewed as a victory for President Obama, who announced in 2011 that his administration would no longer defend DOMA in federal court cases.
“We are a people who declared that we are all created equal, and the love we commit to one another must be equal as well,” said President Obama in a written statement. The current president is the first sitting chief executive to support gay marriage, according to sources.
After the Court announced its decision, President Obama also asked U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder to adjust the federal code to ensure that DOMA’s impact is erased from federal law.