US Supreme Court rules Defense of Marriage Act unconstitutional

US Supreme Court rules Defense of Marriage Act unconstitutional
The United States Supreme Court made two landmark rulings early Wednesday with regard to a pair of controversial laws limiting rights for same-sex couples.

In a 5-4-decision issued Wednesday morning, the high court ruled that that the federal Defense of Marriage Act is unconstitutional, overturning a nationwide legislation that limited benefits for same-sex couples.

Moments later, the court dismissed an appeal regarding Proposition 8, a decision that will once again legalize same-sex marriage in the state of California.

Both decisions out of Washington are already being hailed as important steps in ensuring equality for same-sex couples across the United States.

With regard to the Defense of Marriage Act, or DOMA, the court ruled on Wednesday that the federal government must recognize state-sanctioned same-sex marriages. Gay couples will receive access to numerous federal benefits such as tax breaks and survivor assistance aid. Such benefits were previously only afforded to heterosexual couples.

Under DOMA, the federal government recognized marriage exclusively as the union of one man and one woman, although same-sex marriage is legal in 12 states and the District of Columbia.

President Barack Obama was en route to Senegal when the ruling was announced at 10 a.m. Wednesday, but weighed in from his official Twitter account.

Thirty minutes later, the justices said that defenders of the California law prohibiting gay marriage on a state level could not appeal an earlier ruling from a lower court that struck down the ban.

"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," Chief Justice John Roberts wrote on behalf of the majority decision. "We decline to do so for the first time here."

"We have no authority to decide this case on the merits, and neither did the Ninth Circuit," he added.

As a result of the 5-4 decision to not weigh in on the matter, same-sex unions in California will likely resume shortly.

The Supreme Court has dismissed a closely-watched appeal over same-sex marriage on jurisdictional grounds, ruling Wednesday private parties do not have ‘standing’ to defend California's voter-approved ballot measure barring gay and lesbians couples from state-sanctioned wedlock,” CNN’s Bill Mears wrote from Washington. “The ruling permits same-sex couples in California to legally marry.”