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In Biggest Victory for Gay Rights Yet, Supreme Court Declares Marriage Act Unconstitutional

| June 26, 2013

Be fruitful and multiply. (Jose Navas)

Be fruitful and multiply. (Jose Navas)

The United States Supreme Court today declared the Defense of Marriage Act unconstitutional. That means legally married same-sex couples cannot be denied federal benefits such as Social Security survivor benefits otherwise available to heterosexual couples.

Bill Clinton had signed the measure into law in 1996, after it was approved by large majorities of a then-Republican Congress. The law was known by its acronym as DOMA.

“The history of DOMA’s enactment and its own text demonstrate that interference with the equal dignity of same-sex marriages, a dignity conferred by the States in the exercise of their sovereign power, was more than an incidental effect of the federal statute. It was its essence,” Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote for the majority.

“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,” Kennedy wrote. “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.”

The court’s 5-4 decision is the biggest victory for gay rights to date. The conservative Kennedy joined the liberal wing of the court–Stephen Breyer, Elena Kagan, Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Sonya Sotomayor–to provide a bare majority, and continue a pattern of sharply divided opinions on fundamental matters during this court’s term. Chief Justice John Roberts and Justices Antonin Scalia, Clarence Thomas and Samuel Alito Dissented.

“It is enough to say that the Constitution neither requires nor forbids our society to approve of same-sex marriage, much as it neither requires nor forbids us to approve of no-fault divorce, polygamy, or the consumption of alcohol,” Scalia wrote in his dissent.

In a separate opinion, the court ruled, also 5-4, that opponents of gay marriage did not have standing to appeal a decision that overturned a ban on same-sex unions. That means the lower court’s decision legalizing gay marriage is affirmed. But it also means that the decision has no bearing beyond California: all gay marriage bans passed by statute or through constitutional amendments, as in Florida, remain in effect.

“For those of us who live in state’s like Florida where our marriages are still not recognized, today’s rulings are a reminder that we cannot wait for justice to be handed to us, we are going to have to get engaged and fight,” said Nadine Smith, executive director of Equality Florida, in a statement. Equality Florida is the state’s largest civil rights organization dedicated to securing full equality for Florida’s lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) community. “A majority of Floridians support the freedom to marry, and this is our moment to stand up and get engaged on the right side of history.”

In 2008, 62 percent of voters in Florida approved a constitutional amendment banning gay marriage. With today’s decision, California becomes the 13th state in the nation where gay marriage is legal.

“Today,” Smith continued, “our rights as Americans are not based on our shared citizenship, but upon our geographic location. More than 86 million Americans, nearly one-third of the country, live in states with full marriage equality, with the state and federal protections families need. Today the Supreme Court has said we can go states like Minnesota or Iowa and get married, but we return to Florida legal strangers in our home state.”

Californians passed Proposition 8, banning gay marriage, also in 2008, with 52 percent of the vote. Proponents of gay marriage sued. A court struck down the measure as unconstitutional under the due process clause of the Constitution as well as under the Equal Protection clause of the 14th Amendment, prompting a challenge by opponents of gay marriage.

NBC News reported late Wednesday morning that President Obama placed a phone call from Air Force One to the two gay couples who had originally challenged Proposition 8, and told them, “We’re proud of you guys.”

The 5-4 breakdown in the Proposition 8 case was along diffeernt lines than the DOMA case. In the Proposition 8 case, Chief Justice John Roberts wrote the majority opinion and was joined by Scalia, Ginsburg, Breyer and Kagan. Kennedy wrote the dissenting opinion, joined by Thomas, Alito and Sotomayor.

“We have never before upheld the standing of a private party to defend the constitutionality of a state statute when state officials have chosen not to,” Roberts wrote for the majority. “We decline to do so for the first time here.”

Kennedy, in his dissent, was bitterly critical of the court’s refusal to defer to the initiative process in California. “In the end, what the Court fails to grasp or accept,” Kennedy wrote, “is the basic premise of the initiative process. And it is this. The essence of democracy is that the right to make law rests in the people and flows to the government, not the other way around. Freedom resides first in the people without need of a grant from government. The California initiative process embodies these principles and has done so for over a century. […] In California and the 26 other States that permit initiatives and popular referendums, the people have exercised their own inherent sovereign right to govern themselves. The Court today frustrates that choice by nullifying, for failure to comply with the Restatement of Agency, a State Supreme Court decision holding that state law authorizes an enacted initiative’s proponents to defend the law if and when the State’s usual legal advocates decline to do so. The Court’s opinion fails to abide by precedent and misapplies basic principles
of justiciability.”

Scalia used the word “diseased” in one of his dissents, albeit in reference to what he called “an exalted notion of the role of this court in American democratic society.” Scalia chooses his words carefully. The word was no coincidence, in the context of the subject at hand: Scalia is a bitter opponent of gay marriage.

In the Defense of Marriage Act case, the justices ruled in favor of Edith “Edie” Windsor, who sued the federal government for failing to recognize her marriage to her partner Thea Spyer after Spyer’s death. Windsor and Spyer met in the early 1960s. Spyer was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis in 1977, and Windsor helped her through her long battle with the disease, which eventually left Spyer paralyzed. Windsor and Spyer, who were a couple for 44 years, were married in 2007. When Spyer died in 2009, she left all of her property to Windsor, including the apartment that they shared. But because DOMA prevented the federal government from recognizing the marriages of gay people, Windsor was forced to pay $363,000 in estate taxes that she would not have owed if she had been married to a man. Windsor’s attorneys argued that DOMA denied her, and other gay and lesbian married couples, the equal protection of the law guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution.

“DOMA violated the fundamentally American principles of fairness and equality,” said Windsor. “Because of today’s Supreme Court ruling, every child born today will be able to grow up in a world without DOMA – a world where the federal government won’t discriminate against their marriages no matter who they are. I know Thea would have been so happy and proud to see how far we have come in our fight to ensure that all gay and lesbian couples are treated with the dignity and respect that they deserve.”

“This historic ruling recognizes how unfair it is to treat married lesbian and gay couples as though they’re legal strangers,” said James Esseks, director of the American Civil Liberties Union’s Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender Project. “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.”

“This is truly a day for the history books, one that will be marked by future generations as a giant step forward along our nation’s continuing path towards equality,” said Roberta Kaplan of Paul, Weiss, who argued Windsor’s case at the Supreme Court. “DOMA was the last law on the books that mandated discrimination against gay people by the federal government simply because they are gay. The days of ‘skim milk’ or second-class marriages for gay people are now over.”

Supreme Court Decision Declaring Defense of Marriage Act Unconstitutional (June 26, 2013)

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37 Responses for “In Biggest Victory for Gay Rights Yet, Supreme Court Declares Marriage Act Unconstitutional”

  1. HJ says:

    It’s about time ! Discrimination is discrimination no matter which way you look at it !
    It’s not who you love or how you love….. But that you love !!!

  2. Johnny Taxpayer says:

    The Majority’s logic in this case is extremely flawed and is one of the most blatant examples of activist Judges on display yet. (Yet the title to this article differs from the one yesterday?). This is a tax case. The plaintiff had to pay estate tax because the IRS wouldn’t recognize her Canadian same sex marriage. The majority uses Federalism (without calling it so) to find that States have exclusive authority to define marriage (which I agree with) but then by their ruling essentially says that Congress lacks the constitutional authority to write tax law, because it may affect residents of same sex marriage states differently. This is unprecedented and Scalia’s prediction that this ruling will lead to chaos is exactly correct.

  3. Initialjoe says:

    This is an awesome victory in gay privileges and rights within the United States. Now for the backlash from people with hate in their hearts. Be prepared.


  4. Magnolia says:

    The State of California has voted this down 3 times. We are now being ruled by the courts. Interesting…

  5. Sadie says:

    Well that’s it. America has reached its tipping point. The final “straw” that broke the camels back. Say GOODBYE to the once Mighty and Sane America, for she has now grown old and DISEASED. and ObamaCare will be the Last “nail” in her coffin………Goodbye America !

    • Witchy Mamma says:

      How in the world does giving all Americans the same exact rights ruin our country? In my opinion, and yes it is just my opinion, the fact that we strive to give everyone equal rights is part of what makes this country so great! Discrimination like yours is what is dragging us down. Open your mind, open your eyes and realize that the world is changing. That not everyone can be just like you, believe as you do, act the way you do, look the way you do… and maybe, just maybe open your heart and start accepting that fact. I promise you, you’ll find the world, and certainly our little corner of it, a much happier place!

  6. Ogreagain says:

    Not that it matters, But is this going to lower health care costs? ya never see a fat, poor, gay person. so it should help insurance pools make money an pass the saving along to us straight people.

  7. Bunnell Resident says:

    Billy Graham’s Prayer at 95 yrs old

    From a man the media has never been able to throw dirt on…..amazing!
    He has certainly hit the “world” on the head!

    Billy Graham’s Prayer For Our Nation


    ‘Heavenly Father, we come before you today to ask your forgiveness and to seek your direction and guidance. We know Your Word says, ‘Woe to those who call evil good,’ but that is exactly what we have done. We have lost our spiritual equilibrium and reversed our values. We have exploited the poor and called it the lottery. We have rewarded laziness and called it welfare. We have killed our unborn and called it choice. We have shot abortionists and called it justifiable. We have neglected to discipline our children and called it building self esteem. We have abused power and called it politics. We have coveted our neighbor’s possessions and called it ambition. We have polluted the air with profanity and pornography and called it freedom of expression. We have ridiculed the time-honored values of our forefathers and called it enlightenment. Search us, Oh God, and know our hearts today; cleanse us from sin and set us free. Amen!’

    With the Lord’s help, may this prayer sweep over our nation and wholeheartedly become our desire so that we once again can be called ‘One nation under God!’
    Think about this: If you forward this prayer to everyone on your e-mail list, in less than 30 days it would be heard by the world.

    (It’s worth a try!)
    ‘One Nation Under God!’

    • Witchy Mamma says:

      #1 – He’s praying to his ‘god’, which sounds like it is your ‘god’ as well. ITS NOT MINE. I do not, and will never, live by any code found in a book written by man to control the people, and then translated beyond recognition. I have spirituality in my heart. And my belief system has room for everyone. It has love at its core and is all inclusive. I don’t spread hate to others because they live differently than I do. In fact, I applaud them for following their hearts. I could go on, but I’d like to skip to…

      #2 – The pledge that includes ‘One Nation Under God’ has only been around for 59 years. Which means for 178 years ahead of that we fared just fine without a pledge, or with one that did not include these four little words. Those four little words are a fairly new addition to our country. So please stop using it as an excuse to cram YOUR religion down MY throat. I won’t have it, I don’t have to stand for it, and neither does any other American.

      • Anonymous says:

        People are very confused concerning God. He’s a big proponent of freedom of choice. Every choice has consequences. It cracks me up to read the comments concerning the bible from Whitchy woman. Lady it doesn’t matter if you believe it or not. It is what it is. That book has never been proven wrong and you are still under its governance regardless if you reject it. As a created thing, you have been given that choice.

        The problem that I see is with the supreme court’s decision. At the state level it has been voted down a few times now. It means the majority, or we the people are no longer being listened to. The federal government is not listening to the majority of the people any longer. They are doing whatever they please. This should be concerning to everyone gay and straight.

        • Witchy Mamma says:

          It also has never been proven right… or true even. There is a documented history concerning that book and if you actually do the research you’ll see that everything I wrote is true.

          As for the rest… EQUAL RIGHTS FOR EVERYONE. This would be the right thing to do, because not everyone believes in your silly little book, or even interprets it the same. Not to mention that it should not have anything to do with any aspect of our government. The End.

  8. James says:

    Disgusting vote, disgusting picture, an abomination. Their rights should be a legal binding contract and afforded all rights under said contract; NOT MARRAGE…………….

    • Witchy Mamma says:

      What you find disgusting is beautiful in the eyes of others. Your opinion does not matter at all in this case. Everyone should be afforded the same rights. Period. End of discussion. It shouldn’t be up for debate just because they live a different lifestyle than yours. Your bigotry and ignorance is falling out of favor by the majority. Stopping throwing your tantrum and grow up. The world is changing and for the better.

      • Anonymous says:

        It is not the end of discussion, it has been voted down numerous times. Just because you say it’s the end of discussion does not make it so. The funny thing about people like you is, only your opinion should be listened to. Others that disagree are name called and slammed. The MAJORITY of the people in this country have VOTED NO! Numerous times now. Why should your opinion be the only one that counts? Where do you get off calling other people that disagree with you names? Hypocrite!

        • Witchy Mamma says:

          Bigot: : a person who is obstinately or intolerantly devoted to his or her own opinions and prejudices; especially : one who regards or treats the members of a group (as a racial or ethnic group) with hatred and intolerance — CHECK

          Ignorant: Lacking knowledge or awareness in general; uneducated or unsophisticated.– CHECK

          As I said above, in California sure; as for DOMA not so much. Either way it doesn’t matter. There should be EQUAL RIGHTS FOR EVERYONE regardless. I don’t care if you disagree with me, I care that you are striving to keep others from the same rights you and I enjoy. Its not right. And that is where the descriptive words come into play.

    • Dave says:

      The bigots cannot even spell the thing they want to “protect” even when it is in the title of the article. It is marriage, which everyone has a right to. Don’t force your Stone Age beliefs on the rest of the world. Change is coming whether you like it or not.

  9. Encouraged says:

    Haha! If you think gays getting married will leave America burning, good! Burn it to the ground, then. And all the bigotry can go along with it. We’ll build something beautiful in the place of all your grandstanding and discrimination. I laugh in all your shocked faces. Ten percent of the human population is born homosexual and you can choke on that statistic until one of your children or loved ones asks to have an awkward conversation. We are everywhere, we are created by heterosexuals, and thank Jesus that we are unstoppable, like weeds in the human genome we will grow in between the cracks for as long as there is light shining.

    • Anonymous says:

      Wow! Would you really want to see America burn to the ground? Seems like bigotry could go on both sides of this issue. If you call having a moral opinion bigotry then yes I am a bigot. But you will not see me mistreat anyone or wish any harm on them or on our country. Hoping you find some peace and perhaps a moral compass to go along with it.

  10. beachcomberT says:

    Your article mentions Florida’s 2008 enactment of an anti-gay marriage amendment. If the pro-gay forces had managed to round up 41 percent, the amendment would have been defeated. That was the year when Candidate Obama was in Florida every third day, running like crazy. If he had said just a few words against the amendment, it might have tipped the scales. But Obama still hadn’t “evolved” and toed the religious line demanded by both black and white conservative clergy. I note his congratulatory statement today says nothing about his footdragging of five years ago.

  11. r&r says:

    All I can say about the picture showen Is YUCK.

  12. JonQPublik says:

    LOL at Billy Graham being a touchstone for modern America. 95 years old? Thankfully we won’t have to endure him much longer. I know that sounds hateful, but perhaps all the hate I have had to endure because of people like him is rubbing off on me. None of his edicts or positions on America (and where it’s going) are beneficial to the United States currently (don’t defend him for his past– I’m talking now, and the future here…) That ‘prayer’ is opportunistic at best, and an example of his outdated relevance.

    Put your faith in God, not one of his self-appointed stalkers. Using His name as a weapon or a reason only cheapens the value of your point. Also, think of the bible is a handbook– it’s full of examples to help you become a better part of humanity, not fight it.

    While I realize that Flagler County is a relatively podunk area with it’s feet stuck in a mucky hate-filled history, I’d hope that it could unstick itself– move forward from an absolutely cringeworthy past. Sure, it’s probably entirely unlikely that FC could set an example to the rest of the area, but it would be nice to see an effort made. Think of your sons. Think of your daughters. Think of the world you leave them, and make sure you leave the world in good hands.

  13. Rick says:

    God created Adam & Eve not Adam & Steve.

  14. anonymous says:

    If they can’t be satisfied with their own sexual orientation, what on earth is going to make a gay person happy? NOTHING. No matter how many rights are afforded or whatever. Next step is you can’t verbally say you disagree with that lifestyle. “hate speech fast track to prison”. Sign of the times.

  15. Tidy bowl man says:

    WWJD. A sad day, and God will let us know what he thinks. He already is, and people are too stupid to see it-but they wi in time. A great nation we are no more. This is going to cause health benefits to sky rocket, get your checkbook out and ready. When Americans are left to die because they can’t afford health coverage and the Government won’t pay for it you will then understand.

  16. Sadie says:

    Like I said before. When a country DEGRADES itself to a level of Sodom & Gomorrah , you have reached the END of our country. Yea right, let America burn to the ground and you “gays” will rebuild it better. You can’t even admit to yourselves that your DISEASED in the mind and will NEVER be able to have NATURAL BORN offspring. Your SICK get help before its to late.

    • FlaglerLive says:

      Just to be clear dear readers, we approve comments like the one above not because we approve of them in any way but only to show the level of bigotry and rank stupidity that continues to clog our community swales. Some Southern traditions die hard.

      • Kip Durocher says:

        Pierre your comment “Some Southern traditions die hard” was in and of itself out of the fair lines. Many Northen states are just as full of the “bigotry and rank stupidity” that you speak of. I would bet most of the vile postings here are from Northern transplants.
        California is a supposedly “progressive” state and look at the haters pushing against basic rights for humans going on there even after the Supreme Court ruling.
        These types of hateful, small mind, spineless people who love to wrap their bigotry in god and the American flag are spread throught the nation and they only have courage to spout their trash behind a cloak of anonimity. Otherwise ~ keep up the good work.

  17. Lawrence A. Glinzman says:

    My husband and I have been together over 31 years, paying our taxes like a straight couple, volunteering at numerous civic and charitable groups like straight people, obeying the law and working hard like straight people. Only difference was that our government denied us the same rights and privileges of straight people. Now the Federal government treats us as equals. Florida will be forced to do the same withing a couple years.
    Your personal religious beliefs give you the right to believe anything you like. They don’t give you the right to make the laws of the land reflect those beliefs. Justice for all means us too, not just people you like or agree with.

  18. ANONYMOUSAY says:

    @ Lawrence A. Glinzman. How do you have a husband when you yourself are a man? Don’t hijack the marriage arraignment or it’s terms to justify the life you choose to lead (notice I didn’t say whom you are attracted to). I am a man married to a woman who is my wife. Not just because of mans laws but because of the first union between a man and woman found in the scriptures that I recognize as the first marriage.

    • Witchy Mamma says:

      That’s wonderful that you recognize it as the first marriage… however, not everyone thinks the same way you do. Some of us believe that Love Is Love, regardless. And should be treated the same regardless. It doesn’t affect your marriage in the slightest so why do you even care?

  19. John Boy says:

    Just reading the comments here tells the whole story, low intelligence voters are bigots and Republicans, informed educated voters are Democrats. Almost all Tea Baggers and Republicans want to control the lives of everyone even those who don’t believe the false, untrue stories that their religious zealots have convinced them is the only true path to heaven. Religious Leaders have created almost every major problem since the beginning of time, maybe we need to burn them all at the stake, would be a wonderful world without all of these idiots.

    • justaperson says:

      Just for the record John Boy, I think making a broad statement like that shows your ignorance.

      I’m well educated, intelligent, and informed. I’m a Republican IN FAVOR of gay marriage. Personally, I don’t care who wants to marry whom. I’m strong in my belief’s when it comes to my personal relationship with Jesus however, I do not push it onto others. Additionally, I don’t believe it’s the governments job to carry forth my religious beliefs. Those are my responsibility to live by and carry out. My mission is simple, to love the Lord my God with all my heart, soul, and strength; and to love my neighbor as myself.

      • Witchy Mamma says:

        “I’m strong in my belief’s when it comes to my personal relationship with Jesus however, I do not push it onto others. Additionally, I don’t believe it’s the governments job to carry forth my religious beliefs. Those are my responsibility to live by and carry out. My mission is simple, to love the Lord my God with all my heart, soul, and strength; and to love my neighbor as myself.”

        Thank you JustAPerson! I knew you were out there, I just wish there were more of you who would speak up!

  20. HJ says:

    Thank you Flagler Live for showing all the comments …it does indeed show the bigotry and ignorance that still exists in this country….. Very sad indeed…. Some people are so filled with hatred and they use their religion as a reason ….I don’t believe in any higher power that would not love us all no matter what….. Some of you should be ashamed using your so-called word of God for your comments promoting hate….. Maybe you need to look in the mirror and re-evaluate your life….
    ( oh wait…. I guess you are born special and perfect in every way !)

  21. Nancy N. says:

    Sadly I find it very easy to believe that there are comments so nasty that Flagler Live cannot publish them. On the internet under the cloak of anonymity, people’s true ugliness comes out.

    All these religious bigots keep going on about how “marriage is a religious institution”. No, civil marriage is a legal contract that you sign and register with the state in exchange for certain recognition and benefits. In the state of Florida, a “marriage” can even be performed by a notary public – as mine & my husband’s was 20 years ago.

    Religious people freak out about “marriage” because the civil registration process shares a name with their ceremony for blessing unions. But they are two totally separate things with different purposes (although the law allows blending them into a single event if you’d like). Perhaps this could all be made to go away if we stopped calling state registration of relationships “marriage” and started just calling it “civil registration”. It’s all semantics, people. No one is trying to force religious institutions to hold blessing ceremonies for gays. The government is just deciding who it will allow to register a contract.

    In most of Europe, a church ceremony isn’t even a legal marriage – couples also have to go have a civil ceremony performed at the local register office to be legally married.

    It’s difficult to defend civil “marriage” as a religious institution with things like quickie Vegas weddings, the fact that in Florida a notary public can marry people, and the rampant divorce rate. How religious is it to defend the right of a drunk couple who’ve known each other for days to impulsively tie the knot, but not the right of a couple that has been together for decades?

  22. Peggy says:

    Marriage..What a joke !!! We should all live in SIN. Couples should be free to live with anything they want, like same sex, animals, automobiles, fish, couches. I mean really, who’s to say what is right ? Surely not the CREATOR !

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