DOMA — the federal Defense of Marriage Act — was signed into law in 1996 by President Bill Clinton. For more than 17 years, gay and lesbian couples who loved each other were barred from the protection of over a thousand federal laws and programs because the federal government defined “marriage” as a union between a man and a woman only.
That’s over now.
Today the Court ruled, by a margin of 5-4, in an opinion penned by swing Justice Kennedy, that the law is unconstitutional. Justices Antonin Scalia, Samuel Alito, and John Roberts all penned their own dissents. Justice Clarence Thomas once again joined Scalia’s dissent, and joined Alito’s in part, while Roberts joined Scalia’s in part. Justices Elena Kagan, Sonia Sotomayor, Stephen Breyer, and Ruth Bader Ginsburg joined the majority opinion filed by Kennedy.
The opinion made it plain that the states have the responsibility of regulating, defining and protecting marriage, while also pointing out that some states have indeed given same-sex couples the right to marry, as well as the protection and dignity that marriage entails. In many ways, today’s decision was made out of a consideration of state’s rights: if the federal government continued to discriminate against same-sex couples legally married within any particular state, then the government would be unjustly expressing disapproval of a legitimate state matter. What the Supreme Court’s decision means is that those legally married same-sex couples must be treated the same, under federal law, as any married couple would.
Here are some of our favorite (for the most part) reactions from the Twitterverse (after the jump):
DOMA doesn't surprise me. Even I thought it was unconstitutional.—
Erick Erickson (@EWErickson) June 26, 2013
Millions of gays and lesbians suddenly getting calls from their mothers to remind them how old they're getting.—
Chase Mitchell (@ChaseMit) June 26, 2013
Just married like 17 dogs. What?! YOU WERE WARNED.—
(@BillCorbett) June 26, 2013
Barney Frank: "I have yet to encounter a heterosexual man so moved by Jim and I that they left their wives."—
Sean Howe (@louchelarue) June 26, 2013
Justice Scalia, least self-aware person on planet, says the DOMA decision "demeans this institution."—
Ryan Grim (@ryangrim) June 26, 2013
Justice Kennedy's opinion striking down DOMA uses the word "dignity" 9 times—
Dan Amira (@DanAmira) June 26, 2013
Edith Windsor joins the pantheon of great Supreme Court litigants who secured rights for everyone.—
Glenn Greenwald (@ggreenwald) June 26, 2013