WASHINGTON — Legally married same-sex couples will now be eligible for federal benefits, after the U.S. Supreme Court struck down a portion of the Defense of Marriage Act on its final day in session Wednesday.
In a 5-4 vote, justices struck down the portion of DOMA that kept legally married same-sex couple from receiving tax, health and pension benefits.
By the same vote, justices also cleared the way for same-sex marriages to resume in California.
Gay and lesbian groups hailed the court’s decisions as milestones.
“Today’s historic decisions put two giant cracks in the dark wall of discrimination that separates committed gay and lesbian couples from full equality, said Chad Griffin, president of the Human Rights Campaign, in a press release.
The decision means that lawfully married couples living in marriage equality states will soon have equal access to all the federal rights and benefits based on marital status, Griffin said.
For married couples living in states that do not allow same-sex marriages, such as Utah, there is less clarity, since different federal programs use different policies to determine if a marriage is valid С either a place of celebration or a place of residence, Griffin said.
The Supreme Court also ruled on Wednesday that defendants in another marriage equality case did not have standing, effectively upholding a ruling by a federal judge who decided that gays and lesbians had a Constitutional right to marry in California. The ruling went against the state’s Proposition 8, the law that was narrowly approved by voters to outlaw same-sex marriage. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints was heavily involved in the campaign to pass that proposition.
After Wednesday’s ruling, the church issued the following statement:
“By ruling that supporters of Proposition 8 lacked standing to bring this case to court, the Supreme Court has highlighted troubling questions about how our democratic and judicial system operates. Many Californians will wonder if there is something fundamentally wrong when their government will not defend or protect a popular vote that reflects the views of a majority of their citizens.
It continued as follows:
“In addition, the effect of the ruling is to raise further complex jurisdictional issues that will need to be resolved. Regardless of the court decision, the Church remains irrevocably committed to strengthening traditional marriage between a man and a woman, which for thousands of years has proven to be the best environment for nurturing children. Notably, the court decision does not change the definition of marriage in nearly three-fourths of the states.”