After months of wrangling over whether gays should be allowed to marry and have the same rights as heterosexuals, the United States Supreme Court handed down two of the most socially controversial decisions in its storied history.
In their decision on the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) signed into law by President Bill Clinton, the high court found the law denying federal benefits to legally married same-sex couples in violation of the Fifth Amendment.
Writing for the majority, Justice Anthony Kennedy stated: “DOMA instructs all federal officials, and indeed all persons with whom same-sex couples interact, including their own children, that their marriage is less worthy than the marriages of others. The federal statute is invalid, for no legitimate purpose overcomes the purpose and effect to disparage and injure those whom the state, by its laws, sought to protect in personhood and dignity.”
The minority opinion was crafted by Justice Antonin Scalia: “By formally declaring anyone opposed to same-sex marriage an enemy of human decency, the majority arms well every challenger to a state restricting marriage to its traditional definition. ...The result will be a judicial distortion of our society’s debate over marriage — a debate that can seem in need of our clumsy ‘help’ only to a member of this institution.”
In the case Hollingsworth v. Perry, the case against California’s Proposition 8, which made same-sex marriage illegal in that state, the court “clears the way for same-sex marriage to resume in California.”
The Supreme Court ruling supports a California district court judge who had struck down the proposition.
Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts authored the majority opinion: “To have standing, a litigant must seek relief for an injury that affects him in a ‘personal and individual way.’ ...Here, however, petitioners have not ‘direct state in the outcome of their appeal. We have repeatedly held that such a ‘generalized grievance,’ no matter how sincere is insufficient to confer standing.”
Justice Kennedy again authored an opinion, in this case it was for the minority: “The essence of democracy is that the right to make laws rests in the people and flows to the government, not the other way around. Freedom resides first in the people without need of a grant from freedom.”
Time will sort out the social shrapnel from these two monumental decisions.