US Supreme Court gives major boost to gay marriage
'They got it wrong,' say bishops
- United States
- June 27, 2013
In a pair of eagerly awaited rulings, the US Supreme Court struck down a key provision of the federal Defense of Marriage Act, and declined to hear an appeal in a case involving a voter initiative in California, handing two victories to supporters of same-sex unions.
In a hotly contested 5-4 decision in the case of United States v. Windsor, the Court ruled that the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), approved by Congress in 1996 and signed into law by then-President Bill Clinton, violated the constitution insofar as it denied federal benefits to same-sex couples legally married in their own states. The Court left standing a provision of DOMA that said no state is obligated to recognize same-sex marriages contracted in another state.
Writing for the majority in Windsor, Justice Anthony Kennedy argued that the marriage laws are controlled by the states, and the federal government cannot deny benefits to people who are legally married under state law. “The federal statute is invalid,” he wrote, “for no legitimate purpose overcomes the purpose and effect to disparage and to injure those whom the state, by its marriage laws, sought to protect in personhood and dignity.”
In an angrily worded minority opinion, Justice Antonin Scalia said that the majority opinion suggested that anyone opposing same-sex marriage intends “to condemn, demean, or humiliate” others. “To hurl such accusations so casually demeans this institution,” he wrote.
Speaking for the US bishops’ conference, Cardinal Timothy Dolan and Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone—the president of the episcopal conference and chairman of the bishops’ committee on marriage, respectively—said that the court “got it wrong.” The decision in Windsor, they said, “has dealt a profound injustice to the American people by striking down in part the federal Defense of Marriage Act."