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Supreme Court Strikes Down Portion of Defense of Marriage Act, Throws Out Prop 8 Appeal


...a violation of  "basic due process and equal protection principles applicable to the federal government."

(Image: Getty)

The Supreme Court has struck down part of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) this morning (read the ruling here) and subsequently also threw out the contentious Prop 8 appeal (read that decision here).

We will be discussing this story and all the day's news on our live BlazeCast beginning at 1:00pm ET:

The portion of the DOMA law that has been ruled against is a provision that denies benefits to legally-married gay couples. Gay couples, under federal law, will now be considered "married." And in California, same-sex marriages will be able to potentially resume. The rulings, though, do not impact gay marriage rights in the 38 states where it is currently not legal on the books.

The DOMA vote was 5-4, with Justice Anthony Kennedy writing for himself and the liberals on the court. He wrote that DOMA is a violation of  "basic due process and equal protection principles applicable to the federal government." On a more intriguing note, the argument that DOMA infringed on states rights to define marriage was also noted.

Read the DOMA ruling, below:

As for Prop 8, the decision was also 5-4 and it crossed ideological lines. The justices declined to issue a ruling on the merits of the voter approved gay marriage ban. Politico explains:

Chief Justice John Roberts wrote for the court's majority that that the private proponents of Prop. 8 did not have standing to defend the measure in federal courts. The decision vacates the appeals court ruling holding the measure unconstitutional, but appears to leave intact a district judge's ruling that also found the measure unconstitutional.

Conservative Justice Antonin Scalia joined with Roberts, as did liberal Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Stephen Breyer and Elena Kagan. Justice Anthony Kennedy dissented with conservative Justices Clarence Thomas and Samuel Alito, as well as liberal Justice Sonia Sotomayor.

The ruling is likely to result in same-sex marriages going forward in California, but additional litigation is expected about the scope and validity of the district court's ruling.

Read the Prop 8 ruling, below:

It's a historic day in America, regardless of where one stands on the gay marriage issue. At the heart of the culture war, which reached its climax at the high court today, were two ongoing battles -- one over California's controversial Prop 8 legal battle and the other surrounding the federal government's DOMA law, which legally defines marriage as existing only between one man and one woman.

These cases were notable, because they constituted the first time that the Supreme Court has ever taken up gay marriage cases and, coincidentally, both decisions were issued on the same day -- the final session before the justices go on summer break. The nail-biting scenario has been tense, as, of late, both sides of the debate stepped up their efforts to make known their views on the contentious same-sex marriage issue.


Background on Prop 8 and DOMA

Battles over gay unions are nothing new, but two, key issues, leading up to today's historic decisions, were targeted as the epicenter of the current debate: Prop 8 and DOMA. As for the former, the history is complex. As the AP reports, 18,000 same-sex couples wedded in California back in 2008 after the Supreme Court struck down a law that banned same-sex marriage.

But then voters went to the polls in November of that year, supporting the inclusion of a ban in the state constitution (known as Proposition 8). Federal courts ended up agreeing with homosexual couples who challenged the law, sparking the legal battle that culminated in today's rulings.

Gay rights supporter Vin Testa waves a rainbow flag outside the U.S. Supreme Court building on June 26, 2013 in Washington, DC. The high court is expected to rule on the DOMA and Prop 8 gay marriage cases. Credit: Getty Images

As for DOMA, its roots took effect in 1996, when the law was signed by President Bill Clinton (the same year he was re-elected). In addition to defining marriage as existing between one man and one woman, the law also means that same-sex couples could not -- before today's ruling -- receive certain benefits that are available to heterosexuals.

The Washington Post has more about the United States vs. Windsor -- the DOMA case that forever changed how U.S. law observes same-sex marriage:

United States v. Windsor concerns Edith Windsor, who was widowed when her wife Thea Spyer died in 2009. Windsor and Spyer were married in 2007 in Canada after being partners for 40 years. Windsor was forced to pay $363,053 in estate tax on Spyer’s estate, which she argues she would not have to pay if she had been Spyer’s husband. Thus, she claims, the Defense of Marriage Act, which prevents her from being considered Spyer’s spouse for the purposes of federal taxes, literally cost her $363,053.

The majority of the Supreme Court agreed with Windsor.

With lower courts striking down the provision and with the Obama administration ceasing its defense of the law, House Republicans found themselves defending DOMA through the courts, the AP notes. That battle, at least on this provision, has now ended.

President Barack Obama reacted favorably to the results. Here's his complete statement:

I applaud the Supreme Court’s decision to strike down the Defense of Marriage Act. This was discrimination enshrined in law. It treated loving, committed gay and lesbian couples as a separate and lesser class of people. The Supreme Court has righted that wrong, and our country is better off for it. We are a people who declared that we are all created equal – and the love we commit to one another must be equal as well.

This ruling is a victory for couples who have long fought for equal treatment under the law; for children whose parents’ marriages will now be recognized, rightly, as legitimate; for families that, at long last, will get the respect and protection they deserve; and for friends and supporters who have wanted nothing more than to see their loved ones treated fairly and have worked hard to persuade their nation to change for the better.

So we welcome today’s decision, and I’ve directed the Attorney General to work with other members of my Cabinet to review all relevant federal statutes to ensure this decision, including its implications for Federal benefits and obligations, is implemented swiftly and smoothly.

On an issue as sensitive as this, knowing that Americans hold a wide range of views based on deeply held beliefs, maintaining our nation’s commitment to religious freedom is also vital. How religious institutions define and consecrate marriage has always been up to those institutions. Nothing about this decision – which applies only to civil marriages – changes that.

The laws of our land are catching up to the fundamental truth that millions of Americans hold in our hearts: when all Americans are treated as equal, no matter who they are or whom they love, we are all more free.

The American Public's Transformation on Gay Marriage

As TheBlaze reported following the 2012 presidential election, Americans are firmly divided on the issue of same-sex marriage. But that doesn't mean a trend hasn't been forming. Over the years, support for same-sex unions has been ticking up.

According to FOX News’ exit polls on election day last November, 49 percent of the nation believe that their state should “legally recognize same-sex marriage.” An additional 46 percent, however, do not agree with this sentiment (however, the nation is more equally split on the policy perspective associated with this issue than it is on abortion).

According to Gallup’s 2012 findings, 50 percent of the nation supports gay marriage and 48 percent does not believe that nuptials for same-sex couples should be legally affirmed. In the past, The Blaze also analyzed the 2011 numbers, which found for the first time since Gallup began asking questions about same-sex marriage, that more than 50 percent of the American public supported legalizing gay unions (53 percent to be exact).

Gay rights supporters Brian Sprague (L) and Charlie Ferrusi, from Albany, New York, hold a Human Rights flag outside U.S. Supreme Court building on June 26, 2013 in Washington, DC. The high court is expected to rule on the DOMA and Prop 8 gay marriage cases. Credit: Getty Images

While the 2012 numbers showed somewhat of a decline in support when compared to the previous year, the affirmative proportion stands firm, at least for now, at 50 percent. The nation remains divided, but over the past few years there has been an intense effort to push for equal rights in relation to homosexual marriage — actions that may be paying off for proponents.

In 1996, only 27 percent of the nation supported gay marriage. By 2004, this proportion had grown to 42 percent. This year, despite the 2011 versus 2012 disparity, the situation is evolving. Normally, allowing constituents to vote on gay marriage has had disastrous results for those hoping to see the institution legalized.

But this electoral cycle, three states — Washington, Maryland and Maine — legalized same-sex unions (and with the population voting in favor of these rights). Previously, 32 similar attempts across the nation failed, with North Carolina’s earlier this year serving as the latest example.

And, as The Christian Post reported, “While voters in Washington, Maine and Maryland voted to allow same-sex marriage, voters in Minnesota turned back a proposed constitutional amendment that would have prohibited same-sex marriage if it were approved by law.” Plainly stated: One cannot help but wonder if the legalities are taking a turn in favor of gay nuptials.

The Washington Post has an infographic that provides more information about where the states currently stand on gay marriage:

Photo Credit: Washington Post

Just consider one of the more recent polling results. Earlier this month, a CNN/ORC poll asked, "Do you think marriages between gay and lesbian couples should or should not be recognized by the law as valid, with the same rights as traditional marriages?" While 44 percent answered that these unions "shout not" be recognized, 55 percent chose to affirm them.

All things considered, while abortion appears to be evolving based on new technologies and a slight pro-life tilt, gay marriage is moving in a much more rapid direction (one that is unfavorable to those who fervently espouse traditional marriage).

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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