Supreme Court hands down decisions on gay marriage cases

By Sam Gringlas, Daily Staff Reporter
Published June 26, 2013

WASHINGTON — With throngs of rainbow-clad supporters and curious onlookers just yards from the courtroom’s marble columns, the U.S. Supreme Court handed down decisions Wednesday in two anxiously awaited cases involving same-sex marriage.

In a five to four decision, the court ruled the federal Defense of Marriage Act unconstitutional, while the justices refrained from ruling on the constitutionality of state marriage bans for same sex couples.

Writing for the majority in United States v. Windsor, Justice Anthony Kennedy said DOMA, which federally defined marriage as between a man and a woman deemed state-recognized same-sex marriages as “second class” under federal law.

“By seeking to displace this protection and treating those persons as living in marriages less respected than others, the federal statute is in violation of the Fifth Amendment,” Kennedy wrote.

In a second case, the court ruled five to four that the defendants in Hollingsworth v. Perry had no standing to bring their case before the Supreme Court after a decision in a lower court struck down California’s same-sex marriage ban, a voter initiative known as Proposition 8. While the court did not rule on the constitutionality of the ban, it allowed the lower courts ruling to stand, thus allowing same-sex marriages to resume in California.

As a result, the decision leaves state marriage bans, such as the one in Michigan, unaffected.

Though the court failed to expand full marriage rights to same-sex couples across the nation, supporters outside the court heralded Wednesday’s rulings as victories, despite their limitations.

Kendall Hitch and Sabrina Gowda, seniors at Seaholm High School in Birmingham, Mich. were in the crowd outside below the courthouse steps Wednesday morning.

Describing the noticeable excitement as news of the decisions spread through the group, the two students lauded the rulings as important progress towards greater equality.

“It’s a huge step in the right direction,” Hitch said. “Although we’re not done with the fight, there’s still more to do, it’s a huge win.”

Senator Carl Levin (D-Michigan) said the decisions will expand legal protections to millions of Americans as they are entitled under the Constitution.

“Today’s Supreme Court rulings are victories for equality and for simple human dignity,” Levin said. “I’m hopeful that our nation’s centuries-long march toward equality will continue to move forward.”