BREAKING: Supreme Court Declares DOMA Unconstitutional, Rules “No Standing” on Prop 8

Today, the Supreme Court ruled to strike down DOMA and declared it unconstitutional as per the Fifth Amendment. It has been ruled that the petitioners in Prop 8 did not have standing, and so the appeal is dismissed. From the decision on DOMA:

 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.

It’s the culmination of months of waiting, and before that, years of struggle and activism. The Supreme Court heard arguments on two different issues: the Defense of Marriage amendment that defined marriage as being between one man and one woman on the federal level, and California’s Proposition 8, which sought to specifically outlaw same-sex marriage.

Given that there were two pieces of legislation under consideration, with differing purviews (a ruling on Prop 8 could be confined to California; DOMA is an amendment with national implications), there were complicated combinations of possible rulings and possible outcomes. The New York Times has a helpful flowchart which explains them, or you could look at these infographics from GLAAD.


The ruling on DOMA does not legislate same-sex marriage, but it does mean that in states where same-sex marriage is already legal, the federal government will recognize those marriages in the same way that they recognize different-sex marriages. This decision has no bearing on whether same-sex marriage will be legal in individual states. The opinion was written by Justice Kennedy, with the supporting four votes coming from Ginsburg, Breyer, Sotomayor, and Kagan. Justice Scalia has dissented, along with justices Alito, Roberts and Thomas.

The no standing ruling in Prop 8 means that there will be no national impact on same-sex marriage rights because of this case, but that same-sex marriage should become legal in California. Essentially, the Supreme Court is saying that the people who appealed the striking down of Prop 8 don’t have legal legitimacy to make an appeal, and so the court isn’t really considering the case. Over at SCOTUSblog, there’s a discussion of what the next step for Prop 8 might be. Here’s the SCOTUS liveblog’s take on what just happened with Prop 8, according to Amy Howe:

After the two same-sex couples filed their challenge to Proposition 8 in federal court in California, the California government officials who would normally have defended the law in court, declined to do so. So the proponents of Proposition 8 stepped in to defend the law, and the California Supreme Court (in response to a request by the lower court) ruled that they could do so under state law. But today the Supreme Court held that the proponents do not have the legal right to defend the law in court. As a result, it held, the decision by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, the intermediate appellate court, has no legal force, and it sent the case back to that court with instructions for it to dismiss the case.

Rachel is Autostraddle's Managing Editor and the editor who presides over news & politics coverage. Originally from Boston, MA, Rachel now lives in the Midwest. Topics dear to her heart include bisexuality, The X-Files and tacos. Her favorite Ciara video is probably "Ride," but if you're only going to watch one, she recommends "Like A Boy." You can follow her on twitter and instagram.

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  1. Guess I’m gonna be the debbie downer 1st world brat of the bunch but I gotta say, I don’t live in a state where gay marriage is legal, so I’m glad I wasn’t waiting for this thing with baited breath. I hope that at the very least this means that if you get married in a state where its legal you still have full rights even in a state where its not…

    • Yeah, totally. I’m lucky enough to have escaped to civilization, but for half my life I’ve lived in Wyoming and Idaho and my homogay friends still in those states are still just as fucked today as they were yesterday.

      I’m super thrilled for those of you who actually *did* win a thing today, though!

  2. This is super awesome for those of you who actually will benefit from it, but I can’t help being a little uncomfortable. It seems to me that a lot of these ruling wasn’t so much about affirming the basic humanity of LGBT folks, but rather about privileging “states’ rights” above all else. Which, when it comes to civil rights, is problematic as fuck. Most of the queer folks I know live in Wyoming and Idaho and they will never, ever be able to get married unless the federal government FORCES those states to stop sucking quite so hard.

    I’m just going to post a quote from this post by Lydia Crabtree because these are my basic feelings on the matter:

    “I am struck at how yesterday the idea that there is discrimination against minority voters was scoffed at by the Supreme Court and today that same Court embraced the idea that the United States is discriminating against same sex marriage. It is almost as if we as a society do not have an ability to hold in our minds the prejudice of two groups at the same time. In both cases, these fights have been sent back to the state level – upholding the view that state rights is paramount. As a Southerner this disturbs me. I am all too familiar with what happens when States have control of making and governing minority groups. Things here in Georgia are unlikely to change for my friends who wish to marry whom they love regardless of gender. Just as I suspect that more voting laws will be attempted making voting more difficult for minority groups and redrawing district lines to keep Georgia a red state for as long as possible, given the fact that these practices of voter suppression have been on going. I do not think the United States people should breathe a sigh of relief. This Court clearly shows the great imbalance between the will of the people and the people who hold power. A clear reflection of the disparity of power between the will of the people and the Senate and Congress. Now isn’t the time to celebrate, it is the time to recognize two important thing. 1. Any minority discrimination is too much discrimination, whether the issue is around same-sex marriage or voting rights. 2. If the states retain the right to restrict minority groups indirectly, we should understand the dangerous precedent and remember the historic cost of state rights throughout history. “

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