WASHINGTON D.C. (CBS) — The Supreme Court has struck down the Defense of Marriage Act.
The court ruled Section 3 of DOMA is unconstitutional, in a 5-4 decision.
Propostion 8 has also been dismissed.
DOMA, passed by Congress in 1996 and signed by President Clinton, had prevented married gay couples from receiving a range of tax, health and retirement benefits that are generally available to married people.
With the ruling, over a thousand federal laws now apply to same-sex couples.
According to CBS News’ Jan Crawford, during the oral arguments, a majority of the justices sounded skeptical of the law.
The justices each gave different rationales for their conclusion — Justice Anthony Kennedy focused on the concept of federalism. The liberal judges focused on the concept of equal protection under the law.
Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg said that with DOMA in place, states that recognize same-sex marriage “offer two kinds of marriage — the full marriage, and then this sort of skim milk marriage.”
Wednesday’s rulings amount to significant gay rights gains across the nation.
California voters passed Proposition 8, banning same-sex marriage, in 2008.
After Prop. 8 passed, a federal court followed by the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals said Prop. 8 was unconstitutional.
It’s expected California officials will look to Wednesday’s ruling and allow the resumption of same-sex unions in the near-future.
The practical impact of dismissing the Prop. 8 case is limited, though.
The ruling may apply only to couples who directly challenged Prop. 8, or the counties in which they originally made those challenges.
The lawyers who defended Prop. 8 said Wednesday that they are committed to seeing that Prop. 8 is enforced in California.
Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick called the rulings “a win for the American people.”
“By affirming the principle that people come before their government as equals, today’s Supreme Court decision striking down DOMA is a win for the American people,” Patrick said in a statement. ” I applaud the Court’s decision on Prop 8 in California as well. Freedom includes keeping government out of people’s most personal and intimate choices, and affirming human dignity. Today’s decisions do that.”
In 2009, Massachusetts was the first state to challenge DOMA.
Attorney General Martha Coakley and Gay & Lesbian Advocates & Defenders filed cases in federal court challenging the act’s constitutionality.
Massachusetts said DOMA interfered with state authority over marriage and forced the state to unlawfully discriminate against its residents.
“The Court has removed the stain and the insult that is DOMA,” said Lee Swislow, GLAD’s Executive Director. “This is an enormous victory and a joyous day for loving, married couples and their families – and for thousands of couples in California who will now be able to express their commitment through marriage.”