Beyond that, the Supreme Court, in a majority opinion written by Justice Anthony Kennedy and joined by Justices Ginsburg, Breyer, Sotomayor, and Kagan, declared that Congress's attempt to deny federal recognition to legally married same-sex couples was just another example of bald stigmatization of a disadvantaged group. DOMA "humiliates" and "burdens" and creates a "separate status" for gay couples and, therefore, violates due process and equal protection guaranteed by the Fifth Amendment to the Constitution.
That's the DOMA decision in a nutshell. And although we know complex questions remain, we cannot deny that the end of DOMA is momentous. For the first time, the Supreme Court advanced the inherent equality of gay couples and looked with favor on the legitimacy of those marriages, at least when it comes to federal recognition of state-sanctioned unions.
Let's take a moment to celebrate and then bury ourselves in the details. It will take time to go through the decision with the rigor it deserves and rest assured, we will be covering this case for some time. For now, here are my five initial take aways from the decision in Windsor v. United States:
1. Jurisdiction was a red herring. There is a controversy and disagreement here, and there is no connection between having jurisdiction here and lack of standing in Prop 8.
2. No heightened scrutiny. The Court didn't need it because DOMA was particularly irrational. Still, the Court used a level of scrutiny higher than rational basis. A clear statement of that standard is not the best outcome (which would have been heightened scrutiny), but it got the job done.
3. This was a very Kennedy-esque decision. The opinion striking down DOMA reads like Kennedy's opinions in Romer and Lawrence.
4. Federalism issues played a role, but the decision was not limited to those questions.
5. The importance of marriage. This will mean a lot for when a gay marriage case comes through the courts next.
CONTINUED, AFTER THE JUMP...