By Mark Pazniokas and Grace Merritt
The U.S. Supreme Court voted 5-4 today to strike down the Defense of Marriage Act, the Clinton-era law that denied an array of federal benefits to married same-sex couples in Connecticut and 11 other states where gay marriage is legal.
“The federal statute is invalid, for no legitimate purpose overcomes the purpose and effect to disparage and to injure those whom the State, by its marriage laws, sought to protect in personhood and dignity,” Justice Anthony M. Kennedy wrote in a decision for the majority.
In a separate case, the court issued a narrower decision ruling that opponents of gay marriage had no legal standing to oppose a lower-court decision overturning California’s ban on same-sex unions, which was passed by a referendum question, Proposition 8.
The decisions set off celebrations among gay couples, both for the specific benefits they now can receive and for the broader symbolism of the nation’s highest court denouncing the discrimination against same-sex couples as unconstitutional.
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