News / USA

Victories for Gay Marriage at US Supreme Court

  • Michael Knaapen, left, and his husband John Becker, right, embrace outside the Supreme Court in Washington, June 26, 2013, after the court cleared the way for same-sex marriage in California.
  • Journalists stake out positions early in the morning to report on decisions expected in two cases regarding same-sex marriage at the U.S. Supreme Court in Washington, June 26, 2013.
  • Vin Testa from Washington, waves the rainbow flag in support of gay marriage in front of the Supreme Court in Washington, June 24, 2013.
  • People wait outside the Supreme Court in Washington as key decisions are expected to be announced.
  • Plaintiffs in Hollingsworth v. Perry, the California Proposition 8 case, react on steps of the Supreme Court in Washington, June 26, 2013, after justices cleared the way for the resumption of same-sex marriage in California.
  • American University students Sharon Burk, left, and Molly Wagner, embrace outside the Supreme Court in Washington, June 26, 2013, after the court cleared the way for same-sex marriage in California.

US Supreme Court Rules on Gay Marriage

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— Supporters of same-sex marriage in the United States won two victories Wednesday at the Supreme Court with potentially far-reaching legal and political consequences. 

Just after the decisions were made public, chants of “USA” and “thank you” from gay marriage supporters filled the air outside the U.S. Supreme Court in Washington.

In a five-to-four decision, the high court struck down a federal law passed in 1996 known as the Defense of Marriage Act that barred same-sex couples from receiving federal tax, health and pension benefits.

Watch related video by VOA's Carolyn Presutti

Supreme Court Strikes Down Federal Gay Marriage Inequitiesi
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June 27, 2013
The U.S. Supreme Court has made a major decision on gay marriage, marriages of same-sex couples. The justices ruled that legally married gay couples cannot be denied the benefits enjoyed by married heterosexuals. VOA’s Carolyn Presutti explains what this means for gay Americans.

The majority opinion was written by Justice Anthony Kennedy and was joined by the court’s four liberal-leaning members.  The court’s four leading conservatives were in the minority.

Kennedy cited the U.S. Constitution’s guarantee of equal protection under the law in striking down a law that barred federal benefits to same-sex couples who were married in states where same-sex marriages are legal.

Plaintiff Edith Windsor holds a press conference after the court's ruling in New York City.Plaintiff Edith Windsor holds a press conference after the court's ruling in New York City.
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Plaintiff Edith Windsor holds a press conference after the court's ruling in New York City.
Plaintiff Edith Windsor holds a press conference after the court's ruling in New York City.
The case was brought by 84-year old Edie Windsor who was denied a federal tax break given to married couples because the federal law did not recognize her marriage to her wife, Thea, who died in 2009.

“And to the justices of the Supreme Court, thank you for affirming the principle of equal justice under the law," Windsor said to reporters in New York City.

"To all of the gay people and their supporters who have cheered me on, thank you, thank you, thank you!  I am sure Thea is thanking you too.”

Video report on reaction to court decision
Crowd Outside US Supreme Court Reacts to Gay Marriage Decisionsi
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June 26, 2013
The U.S. Supreme Court has struck down a key part of a federal law that defined marriage as a union between a man and a woman, giving a major victory to supporters of same-sex marriage. Rights groups and individuals welcomed the decision Wednesday in Washington.
In a second case, the Supreme Court cleared the way for same-sex marriages to resume in California.  By a five-to-four decision, the high court ruled that defenders of the state’s gay marriage ban known as Proposition 8 did not have the legal standing to bring a challenge to a lower court ruling that struck the law down.

That decision was welcomed by plaintiff Sandy Stier, who can now marry her partner, Kris Perry, in California.

“We thank the justices for overturning DOMA [Defense of Marriage Act], she said. "It is so, so important for us and for all families.  And we thank the justices for letting us get married in California, but that is not enough.  It has got to go nationwide and we can not wait for that day!”

U.S. States That Legalize Gay Marriage

  • Connecticut 
  • Delaware
  • Iowa
  • Maine
  • Maryland
  • Massachusetts
  • Minnesota
  • New Hampshire
  • New York
  • Rhode Island
  • Vermont
  • Washington
  • Washington, DC

The court rulings do not establish a nationwide right to same-sex marriage.  But the DOMA decision bars the federal government from treating same-sex couples differently than heterosexual couples. Prior to Wednesday's ruling on California, same-sex marriage was legal in 12 states and the District of Columbia.

Opponents of gay marriage were disappointed with the two decisions, including Reverend Rob Schenck, who represents an organization of evangelical Christians.

“One thing true about today’s court decisions on marriage, they do not change the biblical or timeless truth of the nature of marriage as between a man and a woman," he said.

Same-sex-marriage opponents also vowed to fight on, including Congressman Tim Huelskamp, a conservative Republican from Kansas.

“The court has taken it upon itself the attempt, a radical attempt, to redefine marriage," Huelskamp said. "In this decision the courts have allowed the desires of adults to trump the needs of children.  Every child deserves a mommy and a daddy.”

President Barack Obama welcomed the court’s DOMA decision. First on Twitter, then later, in a written statement.Obama said the decision has righted a wrong and the country is better off for it.


Today's DOMA ruling is a historic step forward for #MarriageEquality. #LoveIsLove
The Republican Speaker of the House, Congressman John Boehner, said he was disappointed by the DOMA decision, but added that a robust national debate over marriage will continue despite these latest rulings.

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by: Yoshi from: Sapporo
June 28, 2013 12:56 AM
It seems natural that some amount of homosexual people exist among the population because homosexuality is also noticed in wild animals for example including dolphins.I learned recent researchs are revealing homosexuality is possibly caused by some genetic changes during pregnancy.

I suppose there might be some valuable purposes for homosexual people to be existent biologically as what is like regulating the number of population. So homosexuality is not defined as a disease in revised DSM-5.


by: HDS26234 from: California
June 27, 2013 7:46 PM
If Socialism/Communism had not become a reality in good old USA there would not be a discussion about same sex marriages.


by: James from: Nebraska
June 27, 2013 10:51 AM
Sergei: You are right, marriage is not a "natural right": it is a secular right, long established in US law. It is not the province of a particular religion. (Note that many nations and cultures had marriage long before the majority faith group here even existed, and many other cultures never exposed to it also did.)
As for your slippery slope argument, nope, doesn't wash. They have nothing to do with consent between adults. On the other hand, there is a slippery slope here, that states like mine are going to be eventually challenged: what if a couple from Vermont or California moves here and has Federal benefits but not state ones? The slippery slope is equal protection under the law. No democratic nation gets to vote on rights, so good on vacating the Prop 8 decision. (The idea the majority gets to select rights was settled by the Civil War.)
On the other hand, next year will probably be the first time people will "want" to file and pay income taxes - this is a revenue generator (unless certain members of Congress were really opposed to same-sex marriage because they were simply trying to prevent tax rises for the gaily-married. That must be it.)


by: david lulasa from: tambua,gimarakwa,hamisi,v
June 27, 2013 9:37 AM
the governement wants gay and lesbians to have the right thinking,that benefits might and will not last for long..even for the people in a good marriege I.E male/female marriage

lulasa...the president


by: david lulasa from: tambua,gimarakwa,hamisi,v
June 27, 2013 9:33 AM
no one and government should ever encourage any people to become gays and lesbianism...that will be encouraging selfishness.because gay people don't want to get involved with women,they will actually be hating lesbians too and don't want to do anything with them...and also because lesbians don't want anything to do with men,they will also not want to do anything with gay men..gay and lesbian people just want the world to be a world of same gender and hence their selfishness. lulasa....the president(USA)
tambua village,gimarakwa,hamisi,vihiga,kenya.


by: riano baggy from: indonesia
June 27, 2013 7:15 AM
now the basic meaning of marriage it change only RELATIONSHIP
maybe we think now husband and wife can be same sex or we change not say husband and wife only : my dear, my sweet heart etc.


by: Sergei from: USA
June 27, 2013 2:38 AM
"Gay marriage should NOT be legalized for homosexuality is not natural. Marriage should be for the procreation of the species, not to satisfy sexual appetites. If marriage becomes about sexual appetite then what comes next? Incest, bestiality, polygamy, prostitution, rape. Secondly, marriage is not a natural right. We cannot do whatever makes us happy. If I want to go slit a dog's throat and put it on a stake, I can't do that because it's not right. It might make me happy, but what does that matter in life? We can't always get what we want, or simply do what makes us happy because it makes us happy. This only leads to the slow dissolution of our society. Marriage between gays because it makes them happy is a slippery slope, and we can't be on it."


by: Harris W. Gbahn from: Liberia
June 26, 2013 9:40 PM
America is finished, you've brought God's wrath against the country. Remember that in the past you wrongly passed a bill that allows every citizen to own a gun for Self-defense and today you're fighting to repeal that law. This is definitely going to happen in this so-called Same-Sex Marriage law; just watch out your children will take it beyond your expectation.


by: Yoshi from: Sapporo
June 26, 2013 8:03 PM
Apart from whether homosexual marrage is legal or illegal, I am afraid some diseases like HIV infections which are difficult to treat might spread among them. I wonder from where their pro-homosexuality tastes come. From brain function? From some neurotransmitters relating to reproduction? From a special gene? What makes someone homosexual and the others heterosexual?

In Response

by: James from: Nebraska
June 27, 2013 10:58 AM
Yoshi: Wrong-HIV is spread by promiscuity (and sharing needles amongst drug addicts or bad blood and organ transfusions). Committed marriages with no promiscuity (gay or straight) do not have HIV issues any more than any other disease of that type. As for where it comes from, does it matter? Where does religion or politics come from? A special gene? What makes someone conservative or liberal, what makes someone Christian or Buddhist? (The latter two are geography and indoctrination.) Yes, homosexuality is mostly settled science. It is a shame so many were killed or ostracised for it, like epilepsy because their neighbours were ignorant of science.


by: Mark T
June 26, 2013 12:38 PM
All this started many, many years ago when the Supreme Court legislated away school prayer, removed Bibles from schools and put aside the "In God We Trust" in government. Removal of Christian teaching and morals have sent this country spiraling down to the state we are in today. The '60s and '70s 'awakening' to Freedoms and expressions of Freedom have wrecked us today. It has opened the flood gates of every immoral thing that now plagues us today, and it has allowed the Country to hire a man to lead us down this path of wrong. Now we have the bull by the horns, and an angry bull at that; we don't like it, but we dare not let go.

In Response

by: James from: Nebraska
June 27, 2013 11:08 AM
I carry a $10 bill printed before 1954 to remind people that In God We Trust did not used to be printed on the money. It was a stunt by Congress, not tradition of the nation. I remember when it wasn't on the money. Muslims died in our own Revolution (look it up). Christian morals are why we had slavery. Prayer was not removed from school: state-written and led prayer mandated by government was.

No one prohibits anyone from prayer in school, only publicly-led and enforced ones. Jesus told his followers to pray in secret, not like the hypocrites. What are all these immoral things that you decry, that supposedly did not exist before prayer was removed from school, you mean like bullying this atheist because he would not recite the morning school prayer? This is a nation of many people and many notions: if you want mandatory prayer in schools and enforced state religions there are several nations that accommodate that view rather than this secular nation of laws - but I suspect you'd not want to live in any of them.

In Response

by: ted from: ontario
June 26, 2013 3:56 PM
So much anger using the name of God. If ten percent of the population is born gay, did God not create gays? If Christian teaching is the standard for morals then something went amiss amongst Priests and other ministers over the decades. I too, believe in God, and while personally am not gay, but I would befriend anyone despite their race, sexuality or orientation because I believe God as tolerant and loving.

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