In a 5 – 4 decision the Supreme Court ruled DOMA is unconstitutional as a deprivation of the equal liberty of persons that is protected by the Fifth Amendment. The majority opinion – Justice Kennedy joined the liberal justices – and its holding are confined to those lawful marriages. Roberts dissents, joined by Scalia who is joined by Thomas – Chief Justice joins in part.
Writing for the majority opinion, Justice Kennedy wrote:
DOMA singles out a class of persons deemed by a State entitled to recognition and protection to enhance their own liberty.
To clarify, the federal government is not free to reject benefits from same-sex couples who are married in a state where same-sex marriage is permitted. However, the question as to whether or not same-sex couples have the right to be recognized has not been addressed.
What this means, in plain terms, is that same-sex couples who are legally married will be entitled to equal treatment under federal law – with regard to, for example, income taxes and Social Security benefits.
The decision of the Ninth Circuit is vacated and remanded. The Ninth Circuit was without jurisdiction to consider the appeal. The judgment of the Ninth Circuit is vacated, and the case is remanded with instructions to dismiss the appeal for lack of jurisdiction.
The decision was not along ideological lines. The line up is 5-4: Kennedy dissents, joined by Thomas, Alito, and Sotomayor. The Walter Dellinger amicus brief, written by Irv Gornstein, is instrumental in the Court’s standing opinion in Perry. From the opinion:
We have never before upheld the standing of a private party to defend the constitutionality of a state statute when state officials have chosen not to. We decline to do so for the first time here.
The decision is not on the merits of same-sex marriage, or if same-sex couples have a fundamental right to be married, however, the trial court’s decision is the law of the land. The ruling declared a fundamental right and struck down Proposition 8, which banned same-sex marriage by a 5 point margin vote.DOMA Opinion