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



We are all familiar with the slippery slope; the sliding is underway...


Nothing in this article or talk from supporters is about love...its about money!

Can't wait for the NAMBLA groups to start their crusade for justice. These warts on the azz of society are the next step in our decline, mark my words.


And 150 years ago people believed so strongly that the abolition of slavery would be our undoing that 400,000 Americans died in the fight. The fact that we can use words and the legal system to sort this one out leads me to believe we will come through it fine. And the whole pedophile, beastiality, inanimate object marriage thing is a rediculous argument. I know you can come up with something better Wing.
Oh, and yes, it is about money. Alittle about respect and equality, but mostly financial equality.


This is far different then owning people GHjames. You can do better then that!

Its about changing definitions for money and political votes. Again, eliminate all marriage benefits and let gays call it civil union. There, everybody is equal, nobody gets gubment help more than the other.

Society is breaking down. Polygamist will be chomping at the bit to get their share of the pie if the definition of marriage is changed. How can two girls and a guy be denied their union? Whats next? See where this is going!

Time will tell. The legal system is politicized and the will of the majority will not be served well, neither will society!


I just wish the Rapture would happen soonly like today as mentioned in 1 Thessalonians in the Bible. Wish I could just leave this planet and let those people do whatever they want.


Rapture already happened. Opps.


homosexuals can't make a baby together, therefore they are not equal and can never be equal. done

MSU Alum

What about couples where either the husband or the wife is sterile? Is the ability to make a child simply the defining line for whether or not two people are considered "married"?


One more victory against religious bigotry in our country...
Bigotry cloaked in religion is still bigotry. Don't want same sex couples to have the same legal rights as you take away the legal rights afforded to opposite sex marrage.


Just get rid of all benefits to marriage. ..this topic would go away.


DING DING DING! we have a winner


Once and again, the politicized Roberts Court demonstrates activism with another 5-4 decision to strike down a duly enacted statute supported by the vast majority of the country in favor of an unnatural practice engaged in by less than 5% of the populace. The Court has now usurped the legislative and executive authorities as granted in the Constitution. In doing so it has created a recruiting tool for moslem jihadists. What a blast watching liberals who rail against judicial activism suddenly embrace it when it suits their agenda.

And, again, Justice Scalia establishes himself as a Gulliver surrounded by the intellectual Lilliputians of the Left with his dissent.


The court is there to protect our constitutional riights from being legislated away. The government tells two consenting adults the perameters of their personal relationship today and tomorrow they will tell me how many children I am allowed to have. There is no doubt that the judicial branch is more powerful than the executive and legislative branches. In an ideal world they would be equal just as we would be a republic instead of a democracy, but perfection is not possible in government. I will take the flawed government that does not legislate my family values. You have yours, I have mine, and woe to the one who tries to make the other live by theirs.


The astonishing impulses of Scalia, coupled with the mindless absolutism of Thomas and the demented Alito, have once again allowed their rigid religious beliefs to intrude into secular law. They have now confirmed their legacy by voting to uphold the blatant discrimination and infringement of civil liberties called DOMA. As for Roberts, he's far too smart for this.

Scalia, with his pronouncements today, while very nearly blowing a gasket, clearly reveals his perceived infallibility while simultaneously establishing his insular worldview.

A "recruiting tool for moslem jihadists". Whatever do you mean, or is this some code word baiting propaganda?


From the frothings, I take it you have not taken the time to read the majority opinion and the dissents - I have. You therefore might be surprised that Roberts. who is "far too smart" to uphold the "blatant discrimination and infringement of civil liberties" did just that.

I have no crystal ball to tell me how history will judge Scalia in general, and his dissent in this case in particular, but my suspicion is that if America ever returns to a haven of individual liberties and individual freedoms, which I fervently hope it does, apparently long after my demise, Scalia will be viewed as a patriot not unlike Jefferson.


I would like you to explain your "moslem jihadist" comment. And while you are at it, would you please explain to me your definition of individual liberties and freedoms, particularly as it pertains to today's ruling.

And I am well aware that Roberts was indeed in the minority. My meaning was this: the others are clearly compromised and their vote is not in the least surprising; my impression of Roberts is that he is a smarter guy with an eye on his legacy - (not unlike Obama), and thus his vote today has a more disappointing impact.

The last 10 words of your ending statement are truly breathtaking, stunning even, in their scope, content, and nuance. Please - don't hold back in waxing lyrical in your reverence of the esteemed Justice Scalia on my account. And to think you torment me about Obama - sir, have you no shame?

MSU Alum : Poll indicating 55 percent of US citizens support same-sex marriage.

The court provided a check to the power of the other branches of government, just as they can do be creating new laws. It really is a beautiful system.

I'm also not too sure of your statement regarding this decisions creation of a recruiting tool for muslim jihadists. What sort of correlation exists between providing equal rights to all citizens and terrorism?

Alternatively, I feel like most of the animosity levied against members of the LGBT community lies in the fact that many people haven't interacted with them. Once you sit down and get to know people, it becomes increasingly difficult to demonize and slander them. I would advise anyone who harbors ill will toward LGBT citizens treat them with the same courtesy as any other person and try to get to know them.


This just in:
"As many in the pro-marriage coalition have been arguing for two decades, the case for traditional marriage is not about hostility to homosexuality. It's about staunching the decay of the institution that undergirds everything else in our society. To enshrine same sex marriage is to endorse the idea of marriage as adult fulfillment."

MSU Alum

Pardon the simile but saying opposition to same-sex marriage has no connection to hostility towards LGBT individuals is like saying those opposed to racial equality in this country were attempting to prop up a foundational aspect of the economy at that time, and had nothing to do with underlying racism towards African Americans.

Furthermore, marriage is a function of the state, and does not exist wholly in the realm of religion. As such, the state has no justification to deny the rights of 2 willing adults to join together in matrimony.

At the core of all of this is the concept of love; marriage is about the union of two individuals who love each other. Saying same-sex marriage is adult fulfillment is the continuation of the old homosexual deviancy troupe used against the community during the genesis of the AIDS epidemic.

If the argument is simply," we don't hate gay people, we just hate when they act like everyone else," than your movement is only going to erode with time just as the racists and sexists of the past of crumbled with the relentless passage of time.


Pardon my smile, but ignoring the fact that marriage since its beginning has meant between a man and woman and the changing of the definition driven by the LBGT demonstrates their disregard for straight couples reverance for the institution of marriage.

I hold no hate towards these couples. I do not like the thought of what they are doing but don't think its my place to tell them they cannot.

Call these unions something else, give them the same benefits and move on unless there are alternative motives to changing the definition which I think has been demonstrated in other post here.


I love seeing you conservative guys get screwed... over and over again.. makes my day everytime a new rulling / law / etc.. that progress our country forward and you just come on out and put foot in mouth. You guys are some great comedy.


Years from now when some government troll is pulling your breathing tubes I hope your still having the time of your life thinking about us conservative types!


I wonder how you will feel when you are 75 and you need a major operation to live. Then you are told, you've lived long enough and the Gov't isn't going to allow you to be operated on... We will know then if you are still laughing.

You can laugh all you want, but when the family is destroyed, there goes the nation...


Having now read most of the opinions, the "I'll be Frank with you today and you be Earnest with me tomorrow" crowd will realize that the decision in this case is not the great victory portrayed by the mainstream media.

As I read it, the decision is based on federalism and the right of the States to define marriage as part of their Police Powers. States remain free to define marriage in such a way that it is restricted to a man and a woman. DOMA was invalidated in part because the Federal Government has no authority to interfere with each state's individual determination of who can be married, but it did because it created a situation were some married couples within a state which permits homosexual marriage were entitled to federal benefits while other married couples within the same state were not.

Having apparently learned from the fiasco that was created under Roe v. Wade, a one size fits all prohibition against abortion, which had been, like marriage, a decision for individual states that has split the country in two, the Court's ruling preserves states' rights to continue to define marriage traditionally ("the Court does not have before it, and the logic of its opinion does not decide, the distinct question whether the States, in the exercise of their “historic and essential authority to define the marital relation,” ante, at 18, may continue to utilize the traditional definition of marriage." (Roberts - page 32). Furthermore, this opinion by Justice Kennedy was joined by Justices Ginsburg, Breyer, Sotomayor and Kagan in full without writing any concurring opinions expressing concerns about the States rights language. (This is appropriate because the issue of whether a state can deny that homosexuals can marry was not before the court.)

Hold the rice and wedding cakes for a while, homosexuals, this is just the beginning and the small percentage of the population it impacts, strong positions against homosexual marriage in many states, and disgust with the tactics the pro homosexual marriage crowd have utilized to get their way probably mean that you will have to move to a liberal state before you can exchange your golden rings.

And Fan, I agree that a decision respecting the federal system the Constitution created, and states' rights (just like the Voting Rights Act decision yesterday, moves the country forward. Hope you are enjoying the fun!


How did we "Conservative guys" get screwed by the Supreme Court's invalidating Bill Clinton's law, voted for by Joe Biden, Carl Levin, Pattyt Murray, Paul Wellstone, and Chuckie Schumer?

Back to the Wall

Serious question snlfan... How do you feel that this ruling progresses our country forward?


Moderators have removed this comment because it contained Remarks that discriminate based on age, race, religion, disability, etc. and Profane, obscene, sexual or derogatory language.

Back to the Wall

Thanks for the reply. I was trying to determine whether your issue was with states rights or equal protection. Thanks for clearing up that it is equal protection, but its hard to see through your hate and hostility. Thought you might be a liberitarian ranting about states rights.


Who “Valdtheimp” do you think you are by stating that “…Roberts Court demonstrates activism with another 5-4 decision to strike down a duly enacted statute supported by the vast majority of the country in favor of an unnatural practice engaged in by less than 5% of the populace.” First of all, the Justices decision was not based on what you call, “unnatural practice.” And, if you are referring to sexual practices, I don’t know what your personal experience of sex is, but I happen to know that men and women having sex together perform most of the sexual acts as do homosexuals. So, what’s your hang up anyway? Unless you may be referring to those heterosexual’s who practice sex using a white sheet with a hole cut out in the center as normal sexual practices by men and women and anything other than that is “unnatural.” Now my understanding is that the primary issue involved in the Supreme Court decision was to do with “…same sex couples duties and responsibilities that are an essential part of married life,” Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote for the majority. There was nothing mentioned about “sexual acts or positions or anything to do with having sex.” However, as I have read in most comments made under this story the Commenter’s have made “sexual acts between same sex couples” their main talking points, but what may seem “unnatural” to one person may seem completely “Natural” to others. Also there is a most definite bias, prejudice and hate demonstrated against “homosexuals” in general. These Commenter’s talk as if being homosexual is “less than human” and they don’t deserve to be treated equally as a citizen or human being under the law and yet these Commenter’s portray themselves to be honest, fair minded, people representative of most people in America. From where I stand, you Commenter’s have a long way to go in the department of “Understanding, Community, Compassion, Tolerance, Kindness, Empathy, and Consideration” and you by no means have any leadership qualities at all.


Dear Mr. Williams:

The quote you started out with was in response to what Lanivan said about the Voting Rights Act decision - you might want to keep up.

Since you seem to be more informed than I about the sexual practices of homosexuals, I defer to your superior knowledge. Being a simple guy, I still think I know that the result of the practices can produce a new human being on the one side - not so much on the other, but maybe you can inform me how I am wrong in that respect.

As far as bias about unnatural acts, I will quote favorably Ms. Beatrice Stella Tanner Campbell (9 February 1865 – 10 April 1940: ""It doesn't make any difference what you do in the bedroom as long as you don't do it in the street and frighten the horses."

I don't pretend to "leadership qualities" and I have plenty of understanding, community, compassion, tolerance, kindness, empathy, and consideration, - I simply will not be bullied into supporting a position that is anathema to a majority of our citizens, that is contrary to our long history, that is contrary to most communities, because people like you want to insist that you have the right to define community, compassion, tolerance and all the rest of the liberal B.S. I disagree - if you want to prove me wrong, don't try to tug on heartstrings.



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