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Press Release

Family & Relationships

NCLR Hails Historic Supreme Court Decisions Striking Down Federal Defense of Marriage Act and Restoring the Freedom to Marry in California

Statement by NCLR Executive Director Kate Kendell, Esq.

(San Francisco, CA, June 26, 2013)—Today, the United States Supreme Court struck down section 3 of the federal Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), a 1996 law that prohibited the federal government from recognizing the marriages of same-sex couples for purposes of federal programs and benefits such as Social Security and immigration. In a separate decision today, the Court also ruled that the supporters of Proposition 8, the 2008 ballot initiative that stripped same-sex couples of the freedom to marry in California, did not have the legal right to appeal a 2010 decision by federal District Judge Vaughn Walker striking down that proposition as unconstitutional. The Supreme Court’s decision means that Judge Walker’s decision will be the final ruling in the case, clearing the way for same-sex couples to marry again in California in the near future.

In the DOMA case, the Supreme Court ruled in a 5-4 decision that DOMA violates the constitutional guarantees of liberty and equal protection of the laws. Writing for the majority, Justice Anthony Kennedy said that “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 to injure those whom the State, by its marriage laws, sought to protect in personhood and dignity.”

In the Proposition 8 case, the Court ruled in a 5-4 decision that the supporters of Proposition 8 lacked legal standing to appeal Judge Walker’s decision striking down the initiative. The Court ruled that because the Governor and Attorney General of California—the officials responsible for defending state laws in court—decided not to appeal Judge Walker’s decision, the supporters of Proposition 8 could not appeal that decision on their own because they could not show that allowing same-sex couples to marry would personally affect them in any way.

NCLR filed friend-of-the-court briefs in both cases urging the Supreme Court to strike down DOMA and Proposition 8. Along with the law firms of Fulbright & Jaworski LLP and McCarter & English, NCLR was counsel on a brief filed on behalf of the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights and dozens of other leading civil rights organizations and bar associations, including the NAACP, the National Organization for Women Foundation, the League of United Latin American Citizens, the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund, the National Council of La Raza, the National Asian Pacific American Bar Association, and the Rainbow PUSH Coalition.

Today’s decisions will become final in 25 days. Read the fact sheet.

Click here for a Spanish-language version of the fact sheet.

Statement by NCLR Executive Director Kate Kendell, Esq.:

“Today’s decisions are monumental. Not only has the Supreme Court erased two of the most viciously anti-LGBT laws in our nation’s history, it has said in the clearest possible terms that no law designed to denigrate us and our families can ever be upheld under our Constitution. The Court’s decisions today have laid the foundation for full legal equality for LGBT people and our relationships, including the freedom to marry for same-sex couples in every state. We know how this story ends, and we will continue to fight until we see that day.”

Read more.

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