Originally published: June 26, 2013, 10:14 a.m.
Updated: June 26, 2013, 11:34 a.m.
The U.S. Supreme Court has struck down the federal Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) and, on a technicality, has effectively overturned California’s Proposition 8.
The Court ruled 5-4 to strike down DOMA on the grounds of Equal Protection, saying that it is an unconstitutional deprivation of liberty and a violation of the Constitution’s due process rights as guaranteed in the Fifth Amendment.
“DOMA singles out a class of persons deemed by a State entitled to recognition and protection to enhance their own liberty,” the court ruled, the majority opinion written by Justice Anthony Kennedy.
“The federal statute is invalid, for no legitimate purpose overcomes the purpose and effect to disparage and to injure those whom the State, by its marriage laws, sought to protect in personhood and dignity,” Kennedy continued. “By seeking to displace this protection and treating those persons as living in marriages less respected than others, the federal statute is in violation of the Fifth Amendment.”
Kennedy was joined in the majority by Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Stephen Breyer, Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan.
Chief Justice John Roberts and Justice Antonin Scalia wrote dissenting opinions. Both said the case did not have jurisdiction.
The decision to strike down Section 3 of DOMA will enable same-sex couples with state-recognized marriages to receive federal benefits and recognition, including tax benefits and survivor benefits among some 1,100 federal rights and privileges afforded to marriage. It may also give bi-national couples the option to apply for permanent resident status for immigrant spouses, just as heterosexuals can.
Ryan Wilson, executive director of South Carolina Equality, married his partner, Shehan Welihindha, originally from Sri Lanka, earlier this year.
“We were just looking at the marriage certificate on the wall,” Wilson said in an interview on Tuesday. “If DOMA is struck down, that becomes instantly a more legally binding document for us, particularly for Shehan’s immigration purposes.”
Following the DOMA ruling, Wilson said he and his husband would begin looking at immigration paperwork next week.
“I think this sends a clear signal from the country’s highest court that same-sex couples that are granted the freedom to marry should be treated equally,” he said.
Wilson said the rulings will energize the community in states like South Carolina and North Carolina. Both states passed anti-LGBT marriage constitutional amendments.
“We will try to overturn that or pursue alternatives,” Wilson said. “I think it will energize a community that has sometimes been told they are unequal from the highest levels of government.”
Stuart Campbell, executive director of the statewide Equality North Carolina, also said his organization would work to build on the momentum from today’s rulings.
“With this decision adding to a tidal wave of momentum for marriage,” Campbell said in a release, “we will continue working to win the freedom to marry here at home by pursuing the same strategy that has brought us to this historic day: growing a majority of support for marriage equality – as well as all forms of LGBT equality – in North Carolina.”
Same-sex couples like Charlotte’s Lacey Williams and Laura Maschal said they are ready to push for full equality in their home state. The two were married in Vermont last year, but their relationship is not legally recognized in North Carolina, something they hope to change.
“Today is a step in the direction of full personhood under the law,” she said. “It’s an affirmation that we are people deserving of the same rights of anyone else and our relationship is just as valid.”
California’s Proposition 8, an anti-gay constitutional amendment passed in that state in 2008, was also overturned. The Court voted 5-4 on a procedural matter, ruling that the petitioners did not have standing to defend the anti-gay amendment in court. State officials in California had opted not to defend the anti-gay law. A private group of amendment proponents then took up Proposition 8’s defense. The Supreme Court ruled that the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals had no jurisdiction to consider the appeal. The ruling has the effect of allowing same-sex marriages to resume in California, relying on the case’s initial U.S. District Court ruling overturning Proposition 8.
The Court’s decisions comes ten years to the day of the Lawrence v. Texas ruling, which struck down anti-gay crime against nature laws.
Several rallies, demonstrations and meetings have been planned this week in response to the court rulings. They are listed below.
‘Decision Day’ rallies and gatherings
Thursday, June 27, 6:30 p.m.
Campaign for Southern Equality will host an informal potluck gathering to discuss the DOMA and Proposition 8 rulings and how they relate to the South. They’ll also share how you can be a part of the next stage of their WE DO Campaign, taking place in Mississippi in July.
Wednesday, June 26, 5:30 p.m.
Independence Square, Trade & Tryon Sts.
CRANE (Charlotte Rainbow Action Network for Equality) will host an awareness rally at Independence Square (Trade & Tryon Sts.) on whichever day the Supreme Court issues its opinion, Tuesday, Wednesday or Thursday. Updates from the group on its event page.
Wednesday, June 26, 6 p.m.
HRC North Carolina Marriage Ruling Celebration
Cathode Azure, 1820 South Blvd, Suite 106
SC Equality will host an event on the day of decision. Stay tuned to the event page for updates.
Wednesday, June 26, 8 p.m.
Pullen Memorial Baptist Church, 1801 Hillsborough St.
Equality NC will host a Decision Day event. More details to be announced on the event page.
Wednesday, June 26, 9:30 a.m.
LGBT Center of Raleigh, 411 Hillsborough St.
The LGBT Center of Raleigh will hold a viewing party as the Court releases its opinions. More info at lgbtcenterofraleigh.com.
Thursday, June 27, 6-9 p.m.
Golden Corral, Wilson, N.C.
Democracy North Carolina will hold a dinner meeting with a video presentation.
Wednesday, June 26, 6:30 p.m.
Winston Square park Amphitheater
Stay tuned to event page for event date/day of decision.