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Two Landmark Rulings By Nation’s Highest Court Bolster Gay Marriage

Michael Knaapen, left, and his husband John Becker, right, embrace outside the Supreme Court in Washington Wednesday. (Charles Dharapak/AP)

Michael Knaapen, left, and his husband John Becker, right, embrace outside the Supreme Court in Washington Wednesday. (Charles Dharapak/AP)

Gay marriage advocates gathered on the steps of the Supreme Court cheered this morning as the court issued a pair of landmark rulings on same-sex marriage. “No more DOMA!” they cheered.

Because that is what they got.

In a 5-4 decision, the court ruled that same-sex couples are entitled to federal benefits denied them under the Defense of Marriage Act.

“The federal statute is invalid,” wrote Justice Anthony Kennedy for the majority. “By treating those persons as living in marriages less respected than others, the federal statute is in violation of the 5th Amendment.”

Edith Windsor, lead plaintiff in the case, reacted to the news earlier today and speaking before a group of supporters noted “we won everything we asked and hoped for. Wow.”

The court also declined to decide a case from California, leaving a lower court ruling in place that effectively legalizes gay marriage in that state. But what does all of this mean for same-sex couples in Massachusetts?


James Esseks, director for the ACLU Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender & AIDS Project. He was counsel before the U.S. Supreme Court in the United States v. Windsor challenge to DOMA.

Linda McClain, professor of Law, Boston University


NPR: “Striking down DOMA is a great step forward, obviously,” says Ari Ezra Waldman, legal editor at Towleroad, a widely read LGBT-oriented website, “but there will be difficult complications to work out.”

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Please follow our community rules when engaging in comment discussion on this site.
  • J__o__h__n

    My guess would be yes for the last three years. 

  • kj

    What sorts of effects might the DOMA ruling have on state laws which bar gay marriage explicitly or which define marriage as being between a man and a woman? It seems that on the face of it, the court stated yesterday that such laws are discriminatory and therefore unconstitutional. Doesn’t that mean that those state laws are also discriminatory and unconstitutional and therefore also completely illegal?

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