This morning, in a landmark ruling for gay rights, the Supreme Court of the United States struck down the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), on Fifth Amendment Equal Protection grounds, in the case of U.S. v. Windsor (570 U.S. ______ (2013)). DOMA is the 1996 federal statute preventing federal recognition of same-sex marriages.
Under DOMA, marriage is defined for federal purposes as a union between one man and one woman. Such definition determined who was covered by more than 1,100 federal laws, programs and benefits, including Social Security survivor benefits, immigration rights and family leave, as well as federal tax benefits, including, as was the issue in Windsor, the unlimited federal estate tax marital deduction. Under the law, gay couples who are legally married in a state (or foreign country) that allows same-sex marriage, were not considered married in the eyes of the federal government and were ineligible for the federal benefits that come with marriage.
The Supreme Court issued a 5-4 ruling written by Justice Anthony Kennedy.