The U.S. Supreme Court has just overturned the Defense of Marriage Act, which denies federal benefits to persons with same-sex attraction who have been married under a state statute.
The holding was 5-4, written by Justice Anthony Kennedy. It’s based upon principles of federalism. Recall that the U.S. Constitution requires states to give full faith and credit to laws, warrants, etc. from another state. So, the court concludes, whatever a state declares to be a lawful marriage in its borders must be treated as a lawful marriage by the federal government.
From the opinion: “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.”
In the DOMA decision, Chief Justice Roberts “telegraphs” the court will dismiss the Proposition 8 case — involving an attempt by the people of California to overturn a statute by initiative — on grounds it lacks jurisdiction to consider the case. The Prop 8 decision hasn’t been announced yet.
Roberts also makes clear the court what the court isn’t deciding: “The Court does not have before it, and the logic of its opinion does not decide, the distinct question whether the States . . . may continue to utilize the traditional definition of marriage.”