The Slatest

SCOTUS Hands Two Landmark Victories to Gay Marriage Push

Gay rights supporter Vin Testa waves a rainbow flag outside the U.S. Supreme Court building on June 26, 2013 in Washington, D.C.

Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images

The Supreme Court on Wednesday handed down its long-awaited rulings on both the federal Defense of Marriage Act and California’s Proposition 8. In short, the justices struck down a key provision in the federal law as unconstitutional and dismissed the state case, clearing the way for gay marriage to again be legal in California. It wasn’t a clean sweep for gay rights advocates and their allies, but it was nonetheless a historic day.

The Slatest and Slate proper will have much, much more on both of these cases as the day goes on. But for now, a quick cheat sheet.

DOMA: Justice Kennedy joined the court’s liberal wing—made up of Justices Ginsburg, Breyer, Sotomayor, and Kagan—to strike down DOMA as unconstitutional as a matter of equal protection. The big takeaway: The ruling means that legally married same-sex couples will be eligible for the same federal benefits as heterosexual couples. Here’s the SCOTUSBlog with the details [emphasis added]:

“The Court explained that the states have long had the responsibility of regulating and defining marriage, and some states have opted to allow same-sex couples to marry to give them the protection and dignity associated with marriage. By denying recognition to same-sex couples who are legally married, federal law discriminates against them to express disapproval of state-sanctioned same-sex marriage. This decision means that same-sex couples who are legally married must now be treated the same under federal law as married opposite-sex couples.”

For those who want to read it with their own eyes, here’s the decision: Windsor v. United States.

Prop 8: The high court ruled that the plaintiffs didn’t have the legal standing they needed to challenge the lower court’s ruling that struck down the law banning gay marriage. While the decision itself was a technical one that didn’t address gay marriage directly, it nonetheless has major implications for gays and lesbians. As we explained back in March, by punting on the Prop 8 case the justices will clear the way for gay marriage to again be legal in the Golden State.

The narrow majority did not consist of usual allies: Chief Justice Roberts wrote the opinion, and was joined by Ginsburg, Breyer, Kagan and Scalia. SCOTUSBlog, again, with the details:

“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 [appeal].”

For those who want to read it with their own eyes, here’s the decision: Hollingsworth v. Perry.

More to come from both The Slatest and Slate proper. For now:

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Read more from Slate’s coverage of the gay marriage cases at the Supreme Court, and follow @JoshVoorhees and the rest of the @slatest team on Twitter.