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
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
June 27, 2013 8:41 PM
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.
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
June 26, 2013 9:17 PM
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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Comments page of 2
by: Godwin from: Nigeria
June 26, 2013 11:02 AM
What is constitutional? What is not constitutional? Who is the law maker or the chief law maker of the country? Who makes the laws and who interprets the laws? A law is supposed to be constitutional when the legislative house has passed it by vote of simple majority. When does it become right that the law court, rather than interpret what the constitution says, nullifies standing legislation as unconstitutional? Well, instead of dwelling on those vagaries, here is what should be done, since the USA has decided to take democracy and rule of law to heights that deface humanity.

Let all law abiding countries of the world outlaw the US for pioneering this inhumanity; Let such countries as Nigeria, Saudi Arabia, Iran, Egypt, and in fact every other country that still recognizes sound moral discipline stand up and severe relationship with the US. Let countries that sell bulk of oil to the US sanction her by either curtailing the sale or totally withholding oil sales to the US. Let every country stand up to stage one day protest against the gate of hell. Let all visa mongers stop seeking visa to USA to avoid contamination with this virus. Now I can understand why certain countries hate the USA. USA hates God and does things that run counter to divine discipline. And for this God has given up on it and has allowed it to degenerate in reprobate mind
In Response

by: Mollie King
June 26, 2013 1:36 PM
Godwin, I'm sorry you feel that way. In the US our constitution established a system of checks and balances: the legislative branch makes the laws, the judicial branch interprets the laws, and the executive branch carries out the laws. Each branch has checks against the other two, which keeps power in balance. Part of the judiciary's job is determining if a law is constitutional - so yes, that is the Supreme Court's responsibility. I'm very proud of our country today, because like many Americans, I believe homosexuality is not something people choose - they are born that way, and they should have the right to love whom they want, with the same protection as other couples.

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