After hearing arguments in March, yesterday — in a landmark 5-4 decision — the Supreme Court struck down DOMA. DOMA was section 3 of a 1996 law which explicitly defined marriage as a union between a man and a woman for federal purposes. DOMA came under scrutiny in recent years as gay couples who were legally married in certain states were still blocked from many benefits that straight couples enjoyed.
In United States v. Windsor, 570 U.S. __ , __ (2013), Justice Kennedy, writing for the court, found that DOMA was “unconstitutional as a deprivation of the liberty of the person protected by the Fifth Amendment of the Constitution,” and that:
By seeking to injure the very class New York seeks to protect, DOMA violates basic due process and equal protection principles applicable to the Federal Government. The Constitution’s guarantee of equality ‘must at the very least mean that a bare congressional desire to harm a politically unpopular group cannot’ justify disparate treatment of that group. (citing Department of Agriculture v. Moreno, 413 U. S. 528, 534–535).
Simultaneously, the Supreme Court punted on the issue of Proposition 8 by dismissing Hollingsworth v. Perry on the basis that those that sought to enforce Proposition 8 did not have standing to bring the case before the Court. It appears that the Court has taken the position that for now, these issues are best left in the hands of the states. (Currently 31 states have laws which ban gay marriage, which currently will not be disrupted by either of these decisions).