Cheat Sheet: DOMA Struck Down

On June 26, 2013, the gay rights movement saw a major win when the Supreme Court struck down the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), which prevented same-sex married couples from receiving federal benefits.

Five Supreme Court Justices voted Wednesday that DOMA was unconstitutional since it violated “due process and equal protection principles” established in the US Constitution. Not sure what DOMA is or what this new ruling means for the LGBT community? Check out our cheat sheet below.

What is it:

DOMA was signed in 1996 by President Clinton. It prevented same-sex couples whose marriages were recognized by their home state from receiving the same benefits that heterosexual married couples received under federal law.

What’s happened:

  • DOMA was found unconstitutional in a 5-to-4 vote on Wednesday, June 26, 2013.
  • According to Justice Kennedy, the Defense of Marriage Act prohibited same-sex couples the freedoms that the states intended them to have and as a result violated their Fifth Amendment rights.
  • Meanwhile, Justice Scalia, one of the four to vote in favor of DOMA, argued that by “formally declaring anyone opposed to same-sex marriage an enemy of human decency,” opens the door for state law that restricts “marriage to its traditional definition” to be challenged.
  • Proposition 8, a 2008 amendment that banned same-sex marriages in California, was also brought before the Supreme Court Wednesday.
  • Prior to this, federal Judge James ordered the case closed in 2012 and ruled that same-sex couples could be married in Cali.
  • However, a stay (hold) of the case was granted by the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals until the Supreme Court’s ruling.
  • On Wednesday, the court declined to rule on Proposition 8, effectively legalizing gay marriage in California.

What now:

  • The ruling on DOMA does not guarantee a right to same-sex marriage, but it allows people who live in states that allow same-sex marriage to receive the same federal benefits as heterosexual couples.
  • In terms of ensuring that same-sex married couples are taxed fairly and receive the federal benefits that heterosexual couples receive, Obama’s administration said it will move at a fast pace. However, regarding couples who marry in one state and move to another that doesn’t recognize gay marriage the process will take longer.
  • According to the Wall Street Journal, lawyers have said that “noncitizens who are married to American same-sex partners were also likely to qualify for permanent resident status.”
  • The Supreme Court didn’t specify on federal constitutional rights for gay marriage
  • Now that gay marriage is legal in California, 30 percent of Americans live in states offering same-sex marriage. 

Sources: The New York TimesThe Wall Street Journal

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