Breaking News: U.S. Supreme Court Strikes Down DOMA and California’s Proposition 8 in Landmark Moment for Gay Rights

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The Supreme Court today issued its long-awaited rulings on both the federal Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) and California’s Proposition 8, striking down a key DOMA provision as unconstitutional and dismissing the state case on lack-of-standing grounds, thereby clearing the way for gay marriage to again be legal in California.

The principal consequence of the DOMA ruling is that legally married same-sex couples will be eligible for the same federal benefits as heterosexual couples. See Windsor v. United States, 570 U. S. ____ (2013) (slip opinion available here). In the Proposition 8 ruling, the Court ruled that the plaintiffs didn’t have standing to challenge the lower court’s ruling that struck down the voter initiative banning gay marriage. See Hollingsworth v. Perry, 570 U. S. ____ (2013) (slip opinion available here).

The narrow Hollingsworth majority didn’t consist of the usual suspects, as Chief Justice Roberts wrote the opinion, joined by Ginsburg, Breyer, Kagan and Scalia. Dissenting in the DOMA decision, Scalia was ironically consistent in urging that the Supreme Court limit itself to a modest, deferential role. See Windsor, slip op., dissent at 1 (“We have no power to decide this case. And even if we did, we have no power under the Constitution to invalidate this democratically adopted legislation. The Court’s errors on both points spring forth from the same diseased root: an exalted conception of the role of this institution in America.”).

While the entirely technical Proposition 8 ruling was without the soaring language that has characterized Supreme Court decisions on issues of broad consequence, the DOMA opinion contained several quotable passages, including: “By creating two contradictory marriage regimes within the same State, DOMA forces same-sex couples to live as married for the purpose of state law but unmarried for the purpose of federal law, thus diminishing the stability and predictability of basic personal relations the State has found it proper to acknowledge and protect.” Windsor, slip op. at 22.