WASHINGTON, June 26 (RIA Novosti) – The US Supreme Court on Wednesday issued two landmark rulings on gay rights, declaring unconstitutional a federal statute denying benefits to same-sex couples and upholding a lower court’s ruling allowing gay marriage in California.
In a 5-4 ruling, the nation’s top court decreed that the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), a law that denies numerous federal benefits to same-sex couples even in states that legally recognize such unions, violates the US Constitution because it treats spouses in same-sex marriages differently from marriages between a man and a woman.
“The federal statute is invalid, for no legitimate purpose overcomes the purpose and effect to disparage and injure those whom the State, by its marriage laws, sought to protect in personhood and dignity,” Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote in the majority opinion. “By seeking to displace this protection and treating those persons as living in marriages less respected than others.”
In a second decision, the court ruled 5-4 to dismiss a challenge to a lower court’s ruling overturning California’s Proposition 8 law, which banned same-sex marriage in the state, and holding that the case could not be appealed in a lower court.
The rulings, which were greeted joyously by same-sex marriage proponents outside the Supreme Court on Wednesday morning, mark a watershed moment in the gay rights movement in the United States.
Same-sex unions remain one of the country’s most contentious and divisive social issues despite Americans’ increasingly tolerant views of homosexuals in recent decades.
At present, 12 states and the District of Columbia allow same-sex couples to marry legally, and several other states are debating similar legislation.