High court strikes down federal marriage provision, clears way for same-sex unions in California
by Mark Sherman
Associated Press
Jun 26, 2013 | 13032 views |  0 comments | 143 143 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Gay rights activist Bryce Romero, who works for the Human Rights Campaign, offers an enthusiastic high-five to visitors getting in line to enter the Supreme Court on a day when justices are expected to hand down major rulings on two gay marriage cases that could impact same-sex couples across the country today in Washington. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)
Gay rights activist Bryce Romero, who works for the Human Rights Campaign, offers an enthusiastic high-five to visitors getting in line to enter the Supreme Court on a day when justices are expected to hand down major rulings on two gay marriage cases that could impact same-sex couples across the country today in Washington. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)
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WASHINGTON (AP) — In significant but incomplete victories for gay rights, the Supreme Court on Wednesday struck down a provision of a federal law denying federal benefits to married gay couples and cleared the way for the resumption of same-sex marriage in California.

The justices issued two 5-4 rulings in their final session of the term. One decision wiped away part of a federal anti-gay marriage law that has kept legally married same-sex couples from receiving tax, health and pension benefits.

The other was a technical legal ruling that said nothing at all about same-sex marriage, but left in place a trial court's declaration that California's Proposition 8 is unconstitutional. That outcome probably will allow state officials to order the resumption of same-sex weddings in the nation's most populous state in about a month.

The high court said nothing about the validity of gay marriage bans in California and roughly three dozen other states.

The outcome on the California case was not along ideological lines.

Chief Justice John Roberts wrote the majority opinion, joined by Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Stephen Breyer, Elena Kagan and Antonin Scalia.

"We have no authority to decide this case on the merits, and neither did the 9th Circuit," Roberts said, referring to the federal appeals court that also struck down Proposition 8.

In the case involving the federal Defense of Marriage Act, Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote the majority opinion, joined by the court's liberal justices.

"Under DOMA, same-sex married couples have their lives burdened, by reason of government decree, in visible and public ways," Kennedy said.

"DOMA's principal effect is to identify a subset of state-sanctioned marriages and make them unequal," he said.

Some in the crowd outside the court hugged and others jumped up and down just after 10 a.m. EDT Wednesday when the DOMA decision was announced. Many people were on their cell phones monitoring Twitter, news sites and blogs for word of the decision. And there were cheers as runners came down the steps with the decision in hand and turned them over to reporters who quickly flipped through the decisions.

Chants of "Thank you" and "USA" came from the crowd as plaintiffs in the cases descended the court's marbled steps

Kennedy was joined by the court's four liberal justices.

Chief Justice John Roberts, Justices Samuel Alito and Clarence Thomas, and Scalia dissented.

Same-sex marriage has been adopted by 12 states and the District of Columbia. Another 18,000 couples were married in California during a brief period when same-sex unions were legal there.
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