The Supreme Court of the United States has ruled against the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) in the case of United States v. Windsor. The court’s decision gives same-sex married couples the same federal benefits as heterosexual couples. The ruling against the United States found it unconstitutional to deny Windsor the rights to her late spouse’s estate, which was left to her in 2009.
In 2009, after the death of her spouse, Thea Spyer, Edith Windsor sought to claim the federal estate tax exemption for surviving spouses and was barred from doing so by the Defense of Marriage Act, which excludes same-sex couples from the definition of “marriage” and “spouse.” After the ruling, the Treasury was ordered to refund Windsor’s $363,053 in estate taxes, with interest.
Justice Anthony Kennedy delivered the majority opinion, and was joined by Justices Ginsburg, Breyer, Sotomayor, and Kagan. Dissenting opinions were filed by Justices Roberts, Scalia, Thomas, and Alito. The dissenting opinions included the argument that the Supreme Court should not have decided the case, as the federal government has “generally deferred to state definitions of marriage in the past.”
Justice Kennedy wrote that “DOMA is unconstitutional as a deprivation of the equal liberty of persons that is protected by the Fifth Amendment.”
UPDATE as of 10:30 a.m.: The Supreme Court holds that supporters of Proposition 8, California’s law banning gay marriage, do not have the right to challenge the District Court’s order, which declared Prop 8 unconstitutional. So, while the ruling failed to address the issue of same-sex marriage, it left in place the lower court ruling that a ban on gay marriage is unconstitutional.
The decision will likely allow for gay marriage in California to resume within about a month, the AP reports. In the case of Hollingsworth v. Perry, Justice John Roberts wrote the majority opinion, joined by Justices Scalia, Ginsburg, Breyer, and Kagan. Justice Kennedy filed a dissenting opinion and was joined by Justices Thomas, Alito, and Sotomayor.
UPDATE as of 3:00 p.m.: Not unexpectedly, criticisms for the Supreme Court’s rulings on DOMA and Prop 8 this morning have begun to surface. Here are a few of the most ridiculous reactions:
1. Former Governor Mike Huckabee (R-AK): The former governor issued two tweets today about his thoughts on the SCOTUS decisions, including the sentiment “Jesus wept.” Huckabee also accused the Supreme Court Justices of saying they are “bigger than God.”
2. The National Organization for Marriage (NOM): NOM, a political organization founded in 2007 to fight legalization of same-sex marriage, condemned the Supreme Court decisions, calling the rulings “illegitimate,” and a “miscarriage of justice.”
“The Supreme Court’s holding that proponents of an initiative had no legal right to appeal ignores California law and rewards corrupt politicians for abandoning their duty to defend traditional marriage laws,” said NOM president Brian Brown. “It’s imperative that Congress continue to preserve the right of states to protect true marriage and refuse to recognize faux marriages performed in other states or countries.”
3. Glenn Beck and Senator Rand Paul (R-KY): Conservative radio host Glenn Beck and Kentucky Senator Rand Paul discussed the potential effects of the SCOTUS decisions on DOMA and Prop 8, which they feel could lead to polygamy or even human-animal marriage.
“If you change one variable, man and a woman to man and man and woman and woman, you cannot then tell me that you can’t, logically, change the other variable: one man, thee women, one woman, four men…” Beck said to Paul. “Who are you to say, if I’m a devout Muslim and I come over here and I have three wives, who are you to say, if I’m an American citizen, that I can’t have multiple marriages?”
“It is difficult, because if we have no laws on this, people take it to one extension further – does it have to be humans…” Paul said.
4. Representative Michele Bachmann (R-MN): During a press conference with other House conservatives, Rep. Michele Bachmann said she believes the SCOTUS rulings are “offensive on so many levels.” Bachman then said the Supreme Court “attacked our Constitution today,” as well as attacked “the equal protection rights of every citizen under our Constitution.”
“Marriage was created by the hand of God,” Bachmann said. “No man, not even a Supreme Court, can undo what a holy God has instituted.”
Incidentally, when House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) was asked to respond to Bachmann’s rant, Pelosi simply replied “Who cares?”
Alisha is a writer and researcher for Ring of Fire.