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|UPDATED: Supreme Court rules DOMA unconstitutional; law’s ‘principal purpose to impose inequality’|
|Written by Laura Douglas-Brown|
|Wednesday, 26 June 2013 09:18|
In a historic decision for gay and lesbian rights, the Supreme Court ruled 5-4 that the Defense of Marriage Act, which banned federal recognition of same-sex marriages, is unconstitutional.
Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote the majority decision, joined by Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Elena Kagan, Sonia Sotomayor and Stephen Breyer.
The four justices who dissented were Chief Justice John Roberts, Antonin Scalia, Clarence Thomas and Samuel Alito.
The majority decision relies heavily on the rights of individual states to govern marriage laws, noting that by refusing to recognize legal same-sex marriages as valid under federal law, DOMA directly and intentionally undermines a state's authority.
The case was brought by New York resident Edith Windsor, now 83 years old, who married her partner of more than four decades, Thea Spyer, in Canada in 2007. New York recognizes same-sex marriage, although the federal government does not.
When Spyer died in 2009, Windsor was hit with an inheritance tax bill of more than $360,000, which she would not have owed if the government recognized her marriage.
"DOMA seeks to injure the very class New York seeks to protect. By doing so it violates basic due process and equal protection principles applicable to the Federal Government," the decision states.
'Principal purpose is to impose inequality'
The decision also directly confronts the intent of DOMA to discriminate against same-sex couples.
"The history of DOMA’s enactment and its own text demonstrate that interference with the equal dignity of same-sex marriages, a dignity conferred by the States in the exercise of their sovereign power, was more than an incidental effect of the federal statute. It was its essence," the majority opinion states.
DOMA was defended by the Bipartisan Legal Advisory Group, a committee led by Republicans from the U.S. House of Representatives, after President Obama’s Justice Department refused to defend it.
"The arguments put forward by BLAG are just as candid about the congressional purpose to influence or interfere with state sovereign choices about who may be married," the majority opinion continues.
Notes the court, "DOMA’s principal effect is to identify a subset of state-sanctioned marriages and make them unequal. The principal purpose is to impose inequality, not for other reasons like governmental efficiency."
Read the full decision below, and watch for updates of analysis and reaction.
Georgia rallies tonight
Atlanta LGBT organizations will host a rally at the corner 10th Street and Piedmont Avenue today starting at 5 p.m. The corner is in the heart of Midtown, Atlanta's gay mecca, and has played host to similar rallies in the past.
“Regardless of what those decisions entail, this will be a historic date for the LGBT community and will have a great impact on the ongoing struggle for equality in Georgia and around the country,” rally organizers stated in an open letter announcing the gathering.
Organizations participating in the rally include the Atlanta Pride Committee, Atlanta Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence, Congregation Bet Haverim, Georgia Equality, Black LGBT Coalition, Gentle Spirit Christian Church, Lambda Legal, HRC Atlanta, Love Under Fire, Saint Mark United Methodist Church, Transgender Individuals Living Their Truth (TILTT) and organizers behind the annual Bayard Rustin / Audre Lorde Social Justice Breakfast.
In Athens, LGBT rights supporters will gather at 6 p.m. at Our Hope Metropolitan Community Church, 980 S. Lumpkin St., Athens, GA 30605.
The Savannah LGBT community will gather at 5 p.m. at Wright Square, in front of the Federal Courthouse.
Georgia Equality and Lambda Legal will also host a discussion July 2 on how the rulings impact Georgia; the time has not been announced, but you can participate online or in person in Atlanta.
Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed, who came out in support of marriage equality in Decembe, praised the DOMA ruling in a statement.
“The Supreme Court ruling to strike down the Defense of Marriage Act was a courageous decision and is an enormous victory for loving, married couples and their families," Reed said. "It is my hope that today’s decision puts our nation on an inevitable path toward the day when all citizens, regardless of their sexual orientation, can enjoy equal protection under the law and marry the ones they love. ”
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