Supreme Court strikes down Defense of Marriage Act

The Supreme Court on Wednesday struck down the politically charged centerpiece of the Defense of Marriage Act, in a significant victory for marriage equality.
Tribune News Service
Jun 26, 2013

 

The Supreme Court on Wednesday struck down the politically charged centerpiece of the Defense of Marriage Act, in a significant victory for marriage equality.

Issuing the first of two long-awaited decisions involving same-sex marriage, the divided court said the 1996 law violates the constitutional guarantees of equal protection.

"DOMA divests married same-sex couples of the duties and responsibilities that are an essential part of married life," Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote for the majority.

Kennedy joined the court's four liberal justices in the 5-4 decision.

The Defense of Marriage Act decision issued at 10 a.m. Wednesday was the first of two same-sex marriage decisions expected from the Supreme Court.

The other involves a challenge to California's Proposition 8, which banned gay marriage in the state. Section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act declares that, for the purposes of providing federal benefits, marriage is "only a legal union between one man and one woman as husband and wife" and a spouse is only a "person of the opposite sex who is a husband or a wife."

The definition is important because it determines eligibility for a host of federal rights, benefits and privileges. The Government Accountability Office has identified more than 1,100 areas of federal law in which marriage matters. These range from tax and welfare benefits to employment and immigration.

A same-sex military couple, for instance, is denied housing, health insurance and disability benefits, nor is the spouse eligible for burial alongside his or her spouse in a national cemetery.

"The statute is invalid, for no legitimate purpose overcomes the purpose and effect to disparage and injure those whom the state, through its marriage laws, sought to protect in personhood and dignity," Kennedy wrote.

Coming on the final day of the term that began last October, the Defense of Marriage Act and Proposition 8 decisions drew a large crowd outside the court building on Capitol Hill, across the street from Congress.

The mood alternated between festive and anxious, with same-sex marriage supporters seeming to outnumber opponents.

Congress passed the Defense of Marriage Act in 1996 by wide margins, with supporters at the time including Democratic Sen. Harry Reid of Nevada, who is now the Senate majority leader, and then-senator Joe Biden of Delaware, now the vice president.

The House of Representatives, which passed the bill by an overwhelming 342-67 margin, explained in a committee report that the law was meant to convey "moral disapproval of homosexuality."

One of the law's chief backers at the time, current Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Okla., declared during the House debate that homosexual conduct was "based on perversion.”

The federal law defining marriage inserted the national government into what had traditionally been state territory.

In the years since, though, a number of Defense of Marriage Act supporters began back-pedaling. It is now opposed by former congressman Bob Barr of Georgia, a Republican author of the bill, who in July 1996 decried "the flames of hedonism, the flames of narcissism, the flames of self-centered morality (that) are licking at the very foundations of our society: the family unit."

The Obama administration, too, initially defended the federal law, as is customary for administrations, but it stopped in February 2011 after concluding that Section 3 violated the Constitution.

The case arose from a challenge filed by Edith Windsor, a computer programmer who in 2007 married her long-time partner, Thea Clara Spyer. They remained a couple until Spyer died in 2009. The Defense of Marriage Act prohibited Windsor from receiving a deduction afforded married couples. She had to pay $363,053 in estate taxes, and the Internal Revenue Service denied her refund request.

Twelve states and the District of Columbia now recognize same-sex marriage, and a recent Pew Research Center survey found that 72 percent of those asked thought that legal recognition of same-sex marriage was inevitable.

"The justices are not likely to announce that the ongoing debate over same-sex marriage is now over," said Richard W. Garnett, a University of Notre Dame Law School professor. "While we can't predict what the court will say, the past few years building up to this day have seen a sea change in accepting the idea that all loving and committed couples ... deserve the protections and dignity that only come with marriage."

 

Tribune reporter Krystle Wagner is working on an analysis about what this ruling means for local couples and for Michigan. If you would like to contribute appropriate dialogue about what this means to our community, e-mail her at kwagner@grandhaventribune.com.

Comments

Lanivan

Now that's some fancy footwork - from railing against "unnatural practices" by day to being a beacon of tolerance and compassion by night. Apparently, between then and now, you read the majority opinion of the VRA ruling that states that "we don't need no VRA 'cuz this country don't discriminate no mo", (I think this is a Scalia quote).

NoHope

It is astonishing how the founding principle of this country can be bastardized so completely to assuage the fears of its own people. "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness." I am beyond certain that the creator part will be used by certain commenters to try and include religion in this "discussion". What a disheartening state we live in.

just-a-guy

This whole issue is so much foolishness. On so many different levels. Certain things are
supposed to be a certain way. And they are supposed to be a certain way for good reasons. But so many people now a days can't see "the forest for the trees". They simple see what they want, what's good for them. They want to be liked for who they want people to "think" they are. They are so afraid someone is going to keep them from having some freedom that they really shouldn't even want to have.
People are created equal in God's eyes. But they are not all equal in the real world.
Any grade school teacher could tell you that. There are a lot of good people in this world. But there are also a lot of bad one's as well. Rules, laws and moral standards are what distinguish one from the other. Regardless of what the laws are regarding these issues. Society as a whole is never going to change and fully accept same sex marriages as a norm. It's never going to happen. Pro same sex marriage individuals trample all over the rights of other individuals who don't happen to agree with them, or have the same beliefs. They accuse others of doing exactly the same thing they are doing. I don't care if others of the same sex want to have a relationship. They have that right to make that choice. But don't tell me I'm wrong or intolerant because I won't believe in what you believe in. That I'm somehow depriving you of some freedom. I'm not condemning you, suggesting your a bad person. But I have the right to not condone your beliefs and decisions.

If you want to die your hair purple that is your right to do so. But don't expect people on the street to not look or stare at you.
You may not be any different than they are. But you made the choice to look and act different. It's just the way it works, and the way it will always work. If you can't stand the heat. Get out of the kitchen.

Mystic Michael

How are "pro same-sex individuals" trampling "all over the rights of other individuals who don't happen to agree with them, or have the same beliefs"?

I can buy the notion that you shouldn't be compelled to accept their values, or even to accept their marriages as legitimate. But how does their exercising of their "rights" - whether or not you recognize those rights - amount to them "trampling" over your rights?

Where exactly is the injury? Where exactly is the offense?

just-a-guy

Where exactly is the injury? Where exactly is the offense? That is a good question.
I probably choose the wrong word (trampling). I was generally thinking about a persons right to voice their beliefs without the sometimes severe condemnation of others. The problem that most have with this issue. Is simply that the word marriage has a definition that describes a relationship between a man and a woman. The legal rules, guideline, and associations are, and were established. Around the couple being a man and a woman. They need to leave the word marriage, it's definition and what it stands for alone. And come up with their own word that describes their relationships. Come up with their own legal rules, guideline, and associations. That represents a clear and accurate description of how same sex relationships should and could exist.
Under the rights of the constitution.
There are to many differences between a traditional marriage and a same sex marriage. Especially when children are involved. Who pays the mother role when it's to men.
Who plays the father role when it's two women. Children need both roles displayed. They need the actions and guidance that both roles provide. Leave the marriage boat alone. Stop trying to force yourself onboard. You don't belong in this one. Get your own boat to sail in. No one will bother you.

Mystic Michael

I think the phrase for which you're fishing is one that already exists. Call it a "civil union". Or maybe a "domestic partnership".

As to your point about sticking with the traditional definition of marriage - because it's already been established, I think you could do better. The simple fact that anything has been "established" doesn't necessarily make it correct. Many things have become "established" that never should have been. In my opinion, you have to go to the essence of the thing that you either support or reject, and argue either for it or against it on that basis - rather than simply rehash an ad populum argument, based on the number of people who agree with you - hoping that it will suffice.

As to the issue of choice that you raised in your original post, I would just point out that homosexual people typically don't consider their sexual orientation a matter of choice. They feel that they've been more or less "hard wired" to be as they are, just as heterosexual people are. Did you "choose" to be straight? Do you remember when you made that decision? Neither do I.

I don't take a position on that matter, FWIW. I'm really not in a position to know how it feels to be gay. I'm simply trying to show some tolerance - toward both sides of the coin. And to suggest that all the over-the-top hyperbole probably isn't helpful to anyone.

moey

Marriage should not be regulated by the government at all. Man/Women, Man/Man, Woman/Woman etc if you can find someone to marry you go for it.

Kinda funny listening to GH and its "diverse" population..

Wingmaster

So then government should not decide on polygamy correct?

moey

Like I said find someone who will marry you ( outside of government ) and do as you please with the title. Government recognizes marriage for taxes. You could argue healthcare but thats just because the system of healthcare in the US is f'd up.

moey

Find someone outside of government to marry you and call it whatever you would like. Government should not decide marriage. Why do they? So they can tax or not tax you.. You could argue healthcare but that is because our healthcare system is such a intertwined mess.

The government makes my marriage no stronger or weaker it was just a requirement that I fill out paperwork for the state if I wanted to file taxes jointly.

Vladtheimp

How perspicacious of you, Wing: http://legalinsurrection.com/201...

Wingmaster

Don't know if I'm perspicacious, but I am able to read the tea leaves;-)

Seriously, as we inculcate others on here about where this all leads, we hopefully slow or stop the decline.

Wingmaster

http://patriotpost.us/opinion/18892. Supports my point above and your points below Vlad.

Vladtheimp

Coming to a theater near you soon (after the Supreme Court opinion) http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/... (need to go to the website - in a fit of intelligence, the Mollom filter would not let the entire link be posted - good for them - even though it is in our future.

Mystic Michael

The more I think through this issue, the more I suspect that it was a mistake for government to ever get into the marriage business in the first place. There is a case to be made that ALL committed adult relationships of mutual consent ought to be defined as civil unions - with the term "marriage" reserved as a religious designation, for those unions that meet the requirements of the various religious organizations that recognize marriage - be they churches, synagogues, mosques, covens - whatever. A marriage would by definition also be a civil union. But a civil union would not necessarily qualify as a marriage.

Gay couples could enjoy rights as insurance beneficiaries, hospital visitations, probate/inheritance rights, and so on. Straight religious conservatives could continue to regard their relationships as having been sanctioned by God. And any disagreements with gay couples whose religions recognize those unions as marriages would amount to nothing more than a garden-variety religious disagreement like any other - with no particular legal significance one way or the other.

Unfortunately at the birth of the secular state during the early Middle Ages, there was virtually no concept of secularism per se, as nearly everything operated under the direct scrutiny of the Catholic Church - either officially or unofficially. Trying to modernize the entire system now, many hundreds of years after the fact, simply isn't going to happen.

Wingmaster

So carry that out further in a poly relationship! I assume that falls under your "all" definition. How is that benefit defined, how is it taxed, how is it insured, how are death benefits dispursed....once Pandora's box is open we best understand what is fair and just for "all" under the new definition.

just-a-guy

Your right they do already exist. But evidently those phrases are not acceptable. They want the term marriage. " The simple fact that anything has been "established" doesn't necessarily make it correct". I would agree. But we're talking about a definition of a word. And the current definition of the word marriage describes a relationship between a man and a woman. It not complicated. That is the essence of this issue. A Civil Union and a Domestic Partnership both describe or include relation ships between same sex couples. So why not simply expand the scope or definition of one of those to included more of the rights afforded " married" couples? I believe that the reason that those tow terms are not acceptable to same sex marriage proponents. Is that the think or want to believe that having their unions called "marriages". Will make them more acceptable, more mainstream, more normal. Which it won't. They are still homosexual relationships verses heterosexual relationships. Apples and oranges. The issue really has nothing to do with whether a persons sexual preference is considered or looked upon as being right or wrong. It has to do with the word that is used to accurately describe the relationship. The word marriage accurately describes a relationship that is between a heterosexual male and female. The definition of a Civil Union or a Domestic Partnership already include relationships between same sex couples. As I stated earlier.
I don't want to be forced to accept a same sex marriage as being the same as marriage between a man and a woman. Because they are not the same thing. They aren't now and they never will be. And it has nothing to do with homosexuality.

"I would just point out that homosexual people typically don't consider their sexual orientation a matter of choice". I believe that maybe in some cases that may be true. But I also believe that in a lot of cases it is a choice. You don't have to dislike or have anything against homosexuals. To raise a child an teach them that certain things are not done by little boys or little girls. There are many cases out there that show how children brought up in certain situations or circumstances. Lead them into lives that they would not other wise have found themselves leading. Had it not been for their upbringing. Having said that, I am not suggesting the it is entirely a parents fault. It is a combination of things. Including a child's own nature. But children can be steered sometimes unintentionally in the wrong direction.

Wingmaster

Well thought out and right just-a. I have since moved on from what we are trying to call it because this really is coming down to the financial benefits of marriage.

For some yes, they want the acceptance, but it wouldn't give them the ultimate acceptance they want, possibly only bring more hatred to them because of the corrupting of the definition to some people.

Civil union is perfectly acceptable and accurate way to describe the union between same sex couples. Opening the definition of marriage and removing between "one man and one women" will open a Pandora's box of other issues. We never thought this conversation would be taking place 30 yrs. ago. I guarantee in another 30 yrs even same sex couples will be offended by taboos that will become mainstream.

Interesting to point out, they demand respect, demand changing of a definition, and call it bias when they are not accepted. What happens if straight people demand they respect the definition of marriage and rebuff their attempts at changing the definition. That's right, they call it bias, homophobia.....it doesn't work both ways! Why? Why no respect for what straight couples consider their unions?

The answer is: Equalize all benefits to marriage and civil unions, define civil unions as same sex couples unions, marriage remains the definition it was intended to mean, and move on people. Forcing people to accept a definition change will only bring more scorn, hatred and disrespect to them.

Vladtheimp

Sorry Wing, I can't agree that equalizing benefits is the answer. At bottom line, this is a matter for the citizens of each state to decide, not the federal government and certainly not the federal judiciary. Equalizing takes away from the Constitutional rights of the States and the People, and would bw surrendering to misinformation and bullying by liberals intent on getting their way no matter what. The fact is that a very small minority in this country is attempting to force their will on the rest of us. Less than 4% of the population is homosexual or transgendered. http://williamsinstitute.law.ucl...

This fact is overlooked, hidden, and obscured by homosexual activists, and those who push their agenda, including the media. This miniscule group (compared to the percentages of the population who are women, black, Hispanic, and Christian) is attempting to make this a civil rights struggle, which is insulting to these minorities. As part of their agenda, they are hijacking the language itself. At least in this country, "marriage" has been defined as a union recognized by a State, between a man and a woman. Many states have bent over backwards, so to speak, to try to recognize the reality that there are some people who want to have a different relationship, and through legislation have created the status of "civil union" whereby homosexuals in their relationships have the same rights as men and women in their married relationships. That is not good enough for the activists, they insist that their union has to be called a "marriage."

Well, sorry, just because a small number of people want something doesn't mean that it's right or that it has to happen. To quote former D.C. Mayor Marion Barry "Peoples in Hell Want Ice Water." Since our founding, marriage has been within the purview of the individual states - if citizens of some states want to re-define marriage, they are free to pass laws to do so; if citizens of other states want to recognize civil unions along with marriage, they can do so legislatively; if some states want to only recognize marriage as a union between a man and a woman, that is their right. It was not a matter that 5 unelected justices of the Supreme Court should determine for 300 million people.

For those who applaud the decision, they might want to remember Dred Scott v. Sandford, 60 U.S. 393 (1857), where 7 unelected justices held that while some states had granted citizenship to blacks, the U.S. Constitution did not recognize citizenship of blacks; or Buck v. Bell, 274 U.S. 200 (1927), where Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes and 7 other justices held it was O.K. for Virginia to forcibly sterilize a woman he described as an imbecile, saying infamously “Three generations of imbeciles are enough.; or Korematsu v. U.S., 324 U.S. 885 (1945), where six unelected justices upheld FDR's Executive Order 9066, which ordered Japanese Americans to be herded into internment camps during World War II.

If this Tyranny by the Minority continues to proceed unchecked, one has to wonder where the loss of the rights of a majority of the citizens will finally end. For those who believe we have a "democracy" rather than a "republican form of government" there should be some pause for concern when the democratic will of a majority of the people is thwarted due to a campaign of obfuscation coupled with a few judges.

Wingmaster

Of course they are forcing their agenda Vlad, that's what this minority does. Your right, let the citizens of each state decide. It is for the states to decide. The government should not be involved. Just define it as something different then because it is not marriage. This is between one man and one women period. Civil Union should then be defined as between man/man, women/women period. We keep messing with definitions we will end up with your, er gerbil unions.

My equalizing of marriage benefit solution (removing it) was somewhat tongue and cheek. Notice nobody from any side said that was fair. That's what this is mostly about, money. Access to the money, insurance benefits, death benefits....I just want the conversation to be what its really about. It disgusts me, but if they want to live that way and be able to take care of each other and share benefits so be it. The morality of this is all ready gone. The free love generation continues to ripple through the under pinnings of the country and effect what we do. Yes, I know the last line will make some crank off on me, so what. Those of you that do feel offended, remember you offended my morals first. Move on I did! Live and let live baby!
It will cycle back when they (age of Aquarius) are gone. Unfortunately we have to live thru these times, raise families in the face of this daily onslaught of moral decay. Looking back through history you can see how every couple of generations pushes the morals of the times. Something to do with rebellious youth.

I know this is somewhat a meandering reply as it was started last night and finished this morning. I believe the gay mindset is more of an anomaly in human nature. Call it natures way of birth control! It has always been here and is not going to go away.
That said, as long as we are placing this decision at the state level, I'm good with it. Live in a conservative area, vote for conservative representation, live in a liberal area, vote for that representation.

What difference does it make to you or me if these couples are able to share their financial benefits and lives? As long as I do not have to pay for said benefits with my money and they keep it in the bedroom, I'm good.

The slippery slope of my tongue and cheek comment is in the tax code. What is the government doing subsidizing marriage anyway? That is the argument to come!

Lanivan

Although your "meanderings" are often times amusing - and this one is right up there in the top 10 - I do agree with your (and MM's) premise that government ultimately should not be subsidizing - or defining - marriage. Dude - you got it going on!....keep up that tongue and cheeking....

H M

The pagan ancient Romans had marriage before Christianity was around, as did other ancient cultures. (The Romans acknowledged same sex marriage too) I think it was Augustine @the 5th century who started to incorporate marriage with religion, which didn't actually happen for at least 500 more years. Religion doesn't own "marriage". I got married in a courthouse-it was still a recognized marriage. Same sex marriage takes nothing away from opposite sex marriage. I am a straight Christian, and I support same sex marriage. I have friends of both sexes who are gay, whom I feel are, without a doubt, my equals. Why shouldn't they have the same rights as me? Oh, just-a-guy, you are being utterly stupid when you suggest that homosexuality may be a choice. Not one of my gay friends would have chosen such discrimination and hatred.

just-a-guy

H M - First of all, no has suggested that religion owns marriage. Second, "Same sex marriage takes nothing away from opposite sex marriage". You'd be right as long as it's called something other than 'marriage'. Third, "I am a straight Christian, and I support same sex marriage". This issue really has nothing to do with religion. But you seem to be an example of the type of person who likes to muddy the waters. With your beliefs without convictions way of thinking. Clearly anyone who would post on a public forum stating such a morally watered down opinion. Should rethink some things. You can't have it both ways. You can be a Christian, and love your gay friends, you can agree that they have the right to be in a relationship. But you can't be a Christian with any real convictions and state that you support same sex marriages. Look up the words condoning and condemning. There are many things God doesn't condemn us for but he also doesn't condone them.

No one ever has the guts to state some of the things that take place between same sex couples. Not even the couples themselves. But they do take place. Personally I would feel uncomfortable just thinking about being intimate with another man. Some don't, I understand and accept that. But that doesn't make them right, and others wrong.
"I have friends of both sexes who are gay, whom I feel are, without a doubt, my equals. Why shouldn't they have the same rights as me'? No one is saying they aren't "equal" no one is saying they shouldn't have the 'same rights" as you. Again you muddy the waters by not really understanding what the real issue is. It's the definition of the word "marriage". Most people don't want the word marriage to include unions between two people of the same sex. It's really not hard to understand. It's really not in any way prejudiced, intolerant, mean, unfair or any other type of negative feeling towards two human beings. It's simply about the english language and that words have definitions. Which give meaning and descriptions to things. You can't use one words to describe two situations or circumstances. That are similar but totally different. Two people of the same sex living a life together having sex together. It's not the same as a husband and wife experiencing the same things. Has nothing to do with right or wrong. It's just two totally different things. Hence they need to be separated by definition. Hence they need to have different words.

"You are being utterly stupid when you suggest that homosexuality may be a choice".
I think you may need a little more understanding of people and how the human mind works. People do make choices in life usually small ones that end up leading them down a path that they had no intension of taking. There are also things that happen in peoples lives that affect the choices they make and the paths they take. Any psychologist or psychiatrist would tell you that. So no it really isn't stupid, it's just a fact of life.
If people want to be involved in a same sex relationship they have a right to do so. But they don't have a right to expect others to give up their rights to their own convictions and feelings. To expect others to compromise their own beliefs. So they can feel better about themselves. Most people are not unaccepting of them as human beings. They simply have a different opinion. So many groups don't really just want to be accepted as they will preach. What they really want, is for others to agree with them. That is where the problem really lays.

GrandHavenJohn

I am a staunch Republican, but I have to say; if a couple is gay, they should be able to marry and receive benefits just like anyone else. What's the F'ing problem?

If money is the issue, look to the millions who are trapped in a welfare system because they, their parents (usually just one parent) will never break the cycle. Liberalism keeps them trapped in Social Security Disability cycle that will never be broken.

Gays and lesbians should be embraced for who they are.

Conservatives and liberals are sooooo illogical.

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