Faggots can now marry in California again and teach your children to be gay.
Justices rule Defense of Marriage Act to be unconstitutional and clear way for same-sex marriage to be restored in California.
A landmark supreme court ruling has struck down a controversial federal law that discriminated against gay couples in the US, delivering a stunning victory to campaigners who have fought for years to overturn it.
The court also knocked back a separate appeal against same-sex marriage laws in California, restoring the right to gay marriage in the largest US state and nearly doubling the number of Americans living in states where gay marriage would be legal.
Together, the two Wednesday rulings mark the biggest advance in civil liberties for gay people in a generation, and come amid growing political and international recognition that same-sex couples deserve equal legal treatment.
The most significant legal breakthrough came in the decision led by Anthony Kennedy to rule that the Defense of Marriage Act (Doma) was unconstitutional because it deprived citizens of “equal liberty” before the law.
Doma, signed into law by President Clinton in 1996, previously barred married gay couples from a range of crucial legal rights including federal tax and estate tax exemptions, social security benefits, and the right to be notified of the death of next of kin. It also meant that the married partners of gay Americans were not recognised under the immigration system, leading to heartbreaking splits for couples of different nationalities.
But in a case brought by a New York woman Edith Windsor, who faced a $313,000 estate tax bill after the death of her long-term partner Thea Spyer, lawyers successfully argued that Doma was an unconstitutional interference by Congress in the rights of states to determine marriage laws.
“Doma instructs all federal officials, and indeed all persons with whom same-sex couples interact, including their own children, that their marriage is less worthy than the marriages of others,” said the opinion, written by Kennedy and backed by a total of five of the nine court justices.
“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. 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.”
President Obama called the Doma ruling a “historic step forward for marriage equality” and said he had directed government departments to implement the ruling as quickly as possible.
“This historic ruling recognizes how unfair it is to treat married lesbian and gay couples as though they’re legal strangers,” added James Esseks of the American Civil Liberties Union. “Edie and Thea were there for each other in sickness and in health like any other married couple. It’s only right for the federal government to recognize their marriage and the life they built together.”
The decision prompted a blistering dissent led by conservative justice Antonin Scalia, who called the decision itself and the technical ruling that the court had jurisdiction over such matters “jawdropping”. Reading from the bench, Scalia said: “Both spring from the same diseased root: an exalted notion of the role of this court in American democratic society.”
In a separate ruling on a 2008 California ballot measure known as Proposition 8, the justices ruled that anti-gay marriage campaigners did not have legal “standing”. The ruling paves the way for the restoration of gay marriage in California, which was permitted before a majority of voters blocked it under the 2008 ballot challenge.
Prop 8 was ruled later unconstitutional by two lower courts, whose rulings now stand. The supreme court opinion said that anti-gay marriage campaigners who brought the appeal could not show they had suffered injury.
“[The] petitioners have no role – special or otherwise – in its enforcement,” said the majority decision, written by the chief justice, John Roberts. “They therefore have no ‘personal stake’ in defending its enforcement that is distinguishable from the general interest of every California citizen.”
David Boies, one of the lawyers who argued against Proposition 8, said the court’s finding of no standing is significant because the court threw out the argument that same-sex marriage somehow harms people outside the marriage.
“They cannot point to anything that harms them because these two loving couples, and loving couples like them in the state of California, are now going to be able to get married,” he said in a statement on the steps of the court.
Earlier, both decisions brought audible gasps from those inside the court and scenes of jubilation among campaigners gathered outside.
At New York City’s LGBT Center, where Edie Windsor was due to speak with her lawyers, people “exchanged hugs and high-fives” at the morning’s news.
“Every day we see same-sex couples come through our doors, my friends, my family, people who just want to be recognized for the loving relationships they’ve nurtured, people with children who just want to be protected,” said the center’s executive director, Glennda Testino. “Today, the supreme court took a step to make sure it happens.”
“I woke up this morning thinking of Edie,” Testino said. “This was Edie’s chance for her relationship to be recognized on a national, broad level.”
Testino said that while thrilled with the Doma ruling, the LGBT community still must work to aid bullied school students, immigrants and transgender people.
Earlier, inside the supreme court, as reporters sprinted from the chamber down the court steps to deliver notes to news organizations, a roar built up outside that lasted for about a minute.
Nearly everyone outside saw the same news on their cell phones, refreshing Twitter constantly, with shouts of “Doma struck down!” emerging from all parts of the crowd. More updates continued. “On equal protection grounds!” “Kennedy!”