Blog — Supreme Court

June 26, 2013

Supreme Court Ends Term on a High Note, Declaring DOMA Unconstitutional

By Anne Weismann

DOMA Supreme CourtToday the Supreme Court issued its long-awaited decision on the constitutionality of the Defense of Marriage Act in United States v. Windsor.  In a predictably 5-to-4 opinion, Justice Kennedy, writing for the majority (Justices Ginsburg, Breyer, Sotomayor, and Kagan), declared DOMA an unconstitutional violation of equal protection guaranteed by the Fifth Amendment.  As he explained, by refusing to acknowledge a marital status states conferred on same-sex couples, and declaring such marriages “less worthy than the marriages of others,” DOMA “injure[s] those whom the State, by its marriage laws, sought to protect in personhood and dignity.” 

In reaching this conclusion, the Supreme Court considered the more than 1,000 federal laws and federal regulations impacted by DOMA, ranging from health care benefits to protections in the Bankruptcy Code for domestic-support obligations.  Most notably for CREW, the Court cited DOMA’s impact on federal ethics rules, an issue we identified in an amicus brief we filed in this case.  As the majority noted, federal laws prohibit federal executive and agency officials from substantial participation in matters in which their spouses have a financial interest, prohibit members of Congress and their spouses from accepting certain high-value gifts, and mandate detailed financial disclosures by a large number of high-ranking federal officials and their spouses.  Under DOMA, however, none of these rules would apply to same-sex couples.  The majority reasoned in these, and other ways, “DOMA writes inequality into the entire United States Code.”

Many will comment on the meaning of today’s decision and its impact.  We at CREW want to add our voice and relief that reason, and the Constitution, prevailed here.

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