Supreme Court Rules DOMA Is Unconstitutional

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Decision day at the Supreme Court. Two landmark rulings on gay marriage. We're on it with top legal minds from across the country.

Michael Knaapen, left, and his husband John Becker, right, embrace outside the Supreme Court in Washington, Wednesday, June 26, 2013. (Charles Dharapak/AP)
Michael Knaapen, left, and his husband John Becker, right, embrace outside the Supreme Court in Washington, Wednesday, June 26, 2013. (Charles Dharapak/AP)

Read the Supreme Court's opinions in the DOMA case (United States v. Windsor -- PDF) and in the Prop 8 case (Hollingsworth v. Perry -- PDF).

A big decision day in a week of big decisions at the U.S. Supreme Court. Tuesday, the Voting Rights Act.  Wednesday, gay marriage.

The high court is weighing two major cases — on California’s gay marriage ban and its overturn and on the Defense of Marriage Act and federal benefits for gay and lesbian couples.

The court’s decisions deal with the heart of a profound movement in cultural and legal understandings of same-sex marriage. Advocates of change, looking for affirmation. Opponents, for ammunition.

This hour, On Point: Decision day in the high court on same-sex marriage.
-- Tom Ashbrook


Emily Bazelon, senior editor and legal analyst at Slate. (@emilybazelon)

Neomi Rao, professor of law at George Mason University School of Law who focuses on constitutional law. She was a formerly Associate White House Counsel and Special Assistant to George W. Bush. She also clerked for U.S. Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas.

David Codell, legal director at The Williams Institute at UCLA School of Law. He represented Equality California in multiple cases related to the Prop 8 ruling, and he co-authored amicus curiae briefs for both of the same-sex marriage cases.  He also clerked for U.S. Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg.

Interview Highlights

Emily Bazelon on the decision, its implications and Justice Kennedy’s opinion:
"It’s a 5-4 decision; it’s written by Justice Anthony Kennedy. He is saying the Defense of Marriage Act, because it essentially discriminates against gay people, is a violation of the equal protection guarantee in the Fourteenth Amendment. The implications of this are that gay people who are legally married in states that have legalized gay marriage should be receiving federal benefits from the federal government — very soon, I hope … You’re seeing Kennedy joining with the liberals and moderates on the court to strike down DOMA. And you’re seeing the conservatives on the other side. I think what’s really crucial to Kennedy — there are two principles here. One is the traditional sway that states have had over marriage, over domestic relations, and the idea that when Congress passed the Defense of Marriage Act, it intruded on what is traditionally a province of the state. And then the other thing that is really important to Justice Kennedy is the idea that the law cannot single out certain groups just because it disapproves of them, that there is some latent prejudice. I think he sees in the Defense of Marriage Act exactly that problem."

"The thinking was that it would be too much to ask the court all at once to legalize gay marriage across the entire country. And so instead what we’re seeing is a kind of step-by-step building of the legal principles that they hope will eventually lead to that result."

Emily Bazelon

From Tom's Reading List

NPR: The Same-Sex Marriage Cases: A Primer

SCOTUS Blog: Waiting On Proposition 8 And DOMA Decisions: In Plain English -- "Over four years ago, superlawyers Ted Olson and David Boies — who opposed each other in the Bush v. Gore presidential election case — came together to challenge California’s ban on same-sex marriage on behalf of two California couples. In the next few days, the Supreme Court is finally expected to rule on whether that ban (known as Proposition 8) and the federal Defense of Marriage Act – which limits marriage to a union between a man and a woman for purposes of federal law — are constitutional. But then again, it might not."

The New York Times: How The Court Could Rule On Same-Sex Marriage [FLOWCHART] — "While hearings in March on California’s ban on gay marriage were murky, hearings on the Defense of Marriage Act were more clear, as the justices seemed ready to strike down a central part of the act that bans federal benefits to gay spouses."

Associated Press: Supreme Court Has Range Of Options On Gay Marriage -- "A look at potential outcomes for the Proposition 8 case and then for the case about DOMA."

This program aired on June 26, 2013.


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