This morning the Supreme Court struck down the Defense of Marriage Act (“DOMA”), declaring the federal legislation as unconstitutional in a 5-4 ruling. Justice Kennedy issued the majority opinion and was joined by Justices Ginsburg, Breyer, Sotomayor, and Justice Kagan in stating that DOMA is “unconstitutional as a deprivation of the equal liberty of persons that is protected by the Fifth Amendment.”
The opinion went on to state, “The federal statute is invalid, for no legitimate purpose overcomes the purpose and effect to disparage and injure those whom the State, by its marriage laws, sought to protect in personhood and dignity. . . . By seeking to displace this protection and treating those persons as living in marriages less respected than others.”
Section 3 of DOMA defines marriage as between one man and one woman which effectively prohibited the federal government from recognizing same-sex marriages as legal unions. Today’s decision will have an immediate effect for the married same-sex couples living in the United States, such as extending them federal benefits regarding income taxes and Social Security benefits, and allowing them to apply for marriage-based greencards for foreign-born spouses.
The dissenting opinions were authored by Justice Scalia, joined in his opinion by Justice Thomas and the Chief Justice Roberts, and by Justice Alito whose opinion was joined by Justice Thomas in part. Justice Scalia’s opinion stated, in no uncertain terms, that the Court did not have the power under the Constitution to decide on the constitutionality of a democratically adopted piece of legislation.