Supreme Court Strikes Down DOMA in 5-4 Decision


The Supreme Court has struck down the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) in a 5-4 decision.

"DOMA is unconstitutional as a deprivation of the equal liberty of persons that is protected by the Fifth Amendment."

The standard the court used: is "careful consideration"… not heightened scrutiny, but harkens back to Romer and Lawrence. Rational basis plus.

More excerpt: "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. By seeking to displace this protection and treating those persons as living in marriages less respected than others."

Read the opinion HERE.

Ari Ezra Waldman will have complete analysis coming up! Stay tuned.



  1. Francis #1 says

    Equal protection. Struck down based on equal protection. That is huge!

    Indications are Prop 8 is going to be thrown out so what most people expected is going to happen. Marriages looking likely to resume in California!

  2. ernstroehm's ghost says

    I’m glad the court struck down DOMA. But, it is foolish to equate DOMA with the Republican party. It’s true that the GOP contains more supporters of DOMA than the Democratic Party does; but on the other hand a significant number of Republicans disagree with it. There is such a thing as a gay Republican. In fact, this post is written by one.

    It’s not a bad day for Republicans, but it is a good day for gays.

  3. MaryM says

    Fantastic news.

    The Bill Clinton signed hate-law is no more.

    I wonder will Clinton FINALLY apologise for the damage he inflicted on our community with this law.

  4. kpo5 says

    The President has had his ups and downs, but ALL Y’ALL best be thanking him for appointing Sotomayor and Kagan. If 2008 had gone any differently, today would have been a very sad day.

  5. EchtKultig says

    ernstroehm’s ghost

    so you’re the new GOP troll? Cool!

    No, of course there’s no association between the Republican party and anti-gay politics and policies. Nothing at all. Nothing to see here. Move along now.

  6. JONES says

    Kennedy’s opinion relating to state regulation of marriage under constitutional guarantees was spot on.

  7. Tom says

    Suck Balls too, Roberts! You should have called it a different name..its about the rights not what you call it;

    You called the healthcare plan’s mandatory requirement for us to buy insurance a TAX and not a FEE…thereby making the plan legal,

    Why didnt you just create a similar distinction between Civil Marriage and Religious Marriage…one is about rights and the other about a sacrament????

    IDIOT…it was so easy, and you’re so stupid.

  8. nick says

    So, I live in Ohio where I can’t marry. What if I visit a state where I can get married and marry my partner then return to Ohio. Will the federal government recognize my marriage?

  9. Hey Darlin' says

    There’s speculation that one of the reasons Clinton signed this act into law was to stop a change to the constitution. In the long run it was good it was tied to an act and not fully tied to the constituion. I don’t think he had a choice, but chose the lesser of two evils (possibly knowing it would fail). I will of course wait to hear from him before I pass judgement.

  10. nick says

    There was no movement for a federal marriage amendment until years AFTER Clinton signed DOMA. After signing DOMA, Clinton went on Christian radio programs to tout his “Family Values” based on DOMA.

    Clinton has been trying to re-write history ever since.

  11. Factoids says

    Will Ari get into a discussion of ‘careful consideration” because I have no idea what that means. It sounds like a fourth standard between rational basis with teeth and heighten scrutiny

    Some of the actual reading of the opinion to me is also confusing because they use terms like legitimate purpose which sounds like heighen scruntiy

  12. Jack M says

    I believe the Court is implying that, since already married gay couples have the same rights as straight couples, then their marriages would have to be legally recognized in other states, just as stright marriage would. This is not explicit, but it follows logically.

  13. Bob R says

    Gay Republican uses the moniker ernstroehm’s ghost. How appropriate, a gay Republican identifying with a gay dead Nazi thug. Some things never change. Nazi’s and Republicans are almost interchangeable entities.

    No it’s not a bad day for Republicans. They will now use the overturn of DOMA and Prop 8 to refuel the flames of hate and division. They will wage war against this decision just as they have waged war against Roe-v-Wade. The defiance of the court’s ruling and attempts at nullification will commence before day’s end. Republicans will do all they can to fight it, raise money from it and try to find a political or legal way around it. Personally, I think gay Republicans are sick and twisted creeps. Selfish and no doubt driven by greed and self hate. I refuse to knowingly associate with Republicans whether straight or gay.

    As for the thoroughly obnoxious Alito, the incredibly intellectually bankrupt Scalia, the monumentally stupid Thomas and the diabolically duplicitous Roberts, you comprise the core of the most disgusting and despicable supreme court in this nation’s history. Roberts and his politically driven conservative activists will not be remembered kindly by history.

    I’m very happy about the DOMA and Prop 8 decisions, but the rest of this court’s work has been nothing but a sell out to a southern conservative political agenda and the Chamber of Commerce. I hope one or more of these four conservative poltroons retires or dies while we still have a Democrat in the WH.

  14. JONES says

    It’s a bad day for anyone that is against equality.

    You pretty much nailed the SCOTUS on other rulings this session.
    Shameful. Corporatist. Bigoted.
    Limitation on corporate responsibility for discrimination.
    No responsibility on generic drug quality for big pharma.
    Ridiculous ‘Racism is over’ on VRA

    Had standing not been available as an out it’s hard to say how the decision would have gone but from reading Kennedy on DOMA I think he would have voted for equality and upholding Judge Vaughn’s decision.

  15. jpl says

    As commented/questioned by others here. If one has these fed rights in states where one can be legally married, but then moves to a state with a ban, are those rights then lost, ie. social, taxes, or are they lost across state lines?

  16. says

    ernstroehm’s ghost, nag on Clinton all you like. But he appointed two of the Justices who struck down DOMA. Another two Justices who voted to strike it down were appointed by Obama. The remaining Justice, Kennedy, was appointed as a compromise by Reagan after the Democratic Senate, in particular Ted Kennedy, voted against Reagan’s original pick: Robert Bork.

  17. Belthazar says

    Today we celebrate, tomorrow back to the fight — particularly my home state of Illinois.

    Laura Clawson summed up Scalia best: ‚ÄúSupreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia is outraged‚ÄĒoutraged‚ÄĒthat the majority of the Court overturned the Defense of Marriage Act, writing in his dissent that “We have no power under the Constitution to invalidate this democratically adopted legislation” and that the decision represents an “exalted notion of the role of this court in American democratic society.” Because, don’t you know, DOMA was passed by Congress democratically and therefore the Court should not touch it.

    One question: Where was this Scalia when the Supreme Court was deciding to gut the Voting Rights Act, which was renewed by Congress in 2006?

    Oh, that’s right: Scalia was one of the justices gutting the VRA. That bill was passed in 2006 by a 390 to 33 vote in the House and 98 to zero in the Senate. By contrast, DOMA was passed in 1996 by a 342 to 67 vote in the House and 85 to 14 in the Senate. And public opinion has undergone a sea change since then. So the “We have no power under the Constitution to invalidate this democratically adopted legislation” argument applies far more to the VRA.

    But that’s Scalia. His only consistency is in service of bigotry.‚ÄĚ

  18. Henry Holland says

    Yawn. So a law that affects a tiny portion of gays and lesbians, and for an institution that will statistically end in divorce in roughly 50% of the cases (we’ve already seen divorces from the SF cases) gets all the coverage, and meanwhile GLBT and whatever others you want to add to that alphabet soup can be fired from their jobs and/or kicked out of their housing without recourse. Yeah us!

  19. says

    if you wanna see just HOW sad a day it is to be a Gay Republican, take a gander at what the neutered sadsacks over at are doing. and spinning.

    it’s actually hilarious that they’ve taken the news of today and are desperately trying to spin it into anti-Liberal angles. HILARIOUS.

  20. jamal49 says

    @Bob R: at least you get the big picture that is happening here and it’s not pretty.

    Yes, DOMA being struck down is a good thing. The ruling against Prop 8 is a good thing. BUT…..

    The Prop 8 ruling, while wonderful for CA LGBTQ people, is not so great for the 38 states that do not recognize same-sex marriage.

    The end of DOMA is good only in that it clarifies that the federal government cannot deny equal protection to same-sex couples.

    What is being missed here are some important things to ponder:

    Yesterday’s ruling on the Voting Rights Act means that the individual right to vote that was assumed as a guaranteed civil right of fair and equal access is now no longer true. SCOTUS said that states DO have the right individually to set whatever voter requirements they choose and the federal government cannot interfere. This gives states unprecedented power over the federal government and neuters any federal oversight to guarantee any citizen’s across-the-board, fair and equal access to the ballot box.

    The ruling in Prop 8 applies only to the state of California. It does not apply to any other state. SCOTUS’ decision is ambiguous enough that another state could pass a similar amendment to their constitution and, if a compelling argument could be made for THAT state’s voters to amend their constitution to deny consenting, adult, same-sex couples the right to marry, it is possible that in a future decision, SCOTUS could rule in favor of such an amendment. Again, SCOTUS leaves it up to the states.

    The nullification of DOMA only means that the federal government cannot enforce Congressional legislation to discriminate against same-sex couples without a clear and compelling reason to negate the Equal Protection Clause of the U.S. Constitution. It does NOT, however, prevent a state from doing so. Where the conservative wing of SCOTUS is concerned if an amendment to the U.S. Constitution to define marriage as a privilege granted to one man and woman is ratified by 38 states (I think this is the required majority), SCOTUS will NEVER hear any case that may seek to nullify such a federal constitutional amendment because the states have spoken and the buck stops at the U.S. Supreme Court.

    I am sure that anyone here who is more sophisticated, more knowledgeable about such things will be able to pick apart my arguments that today’s decision by SCOTUS leaves my American glass half-empty. What I see, in all three decisions of yesterday and today, is SCOTUS has given states unprecedented power over the federal government and has set the stage for conservative legal groups to strike again and attempt to restrict full civil equality for LGBTQ people at the STATE level. And then, dare us to challenge them all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court.

    The fact is this sly and devious conservative majority of five and their ambiguous decisions today ensure that we will be tying up the state and federal courts for years to come as we try to combat states’ legislatures restrictions of civil equality for LGBTQ people and to fight for fair and equal access to the ballot box. These fights are not unrelated!

    What has happened is the states now have more power than ever. The states’ rights contingent of SCOTUS has prevailed. This does not bode well for any fair-minded American. And, wily conservatives can and will use today’s decisions to drive a wedge between LGBTQ people (who many conservatives portray as privileged white men seeking “special rights”) and Black, Latino and other minorities, who are essential allies in any fight for full civil equality.

    I celebrate with qualifications the two decisions of today. I mourn yesterday’s decision.

    It was heart-breaking when the Voting Rights Act was gutted yesterday. To see the valiant, courageous sacrifices of those who fought for civil rights for ALL Americans tossed onto the judicial trash-heap left me despairing because 40 years is not a long time and, no, SCOTUS, racism is NOT dead in America! The Voting Rights Act is still necessary! And, this will be proven as red state after red state either implements standing legislation or quickly passes legislation to put up, once again, onerous restrictions and barriers to fair and equal access to the ballot box.

    The three of them together, in the long run, the big picture, do not bode well. It means only that the gauntlet has been thrown down in the fight to have a strong federal government protect the weak and disenfranchised from the voracious, temperamental whims of a vengeful conservative electorate in individual states. (And before anyone nails me on this, that which passes for “conservatism” in today’s Republican Party is not conservatism as I have understood its traditional meaning.)

    SCOTUS has tipped the balance towards the states. It has made “divide and conquer” a factual reality for modern-day GOP conservatives. That is not a good thing in America’s quest for a just and egalitarian society.