Cheers went up outside the Supreme Court this morning after the Justices ruled in a 5-4 decision that a key part of the 1996 law barring recognition of gay marriage was unconstitutional. In a second case, the court ruled that a group challenging a lower court's decision to overturn California's proposition 8—which bans gay marriage—had no right to their appeal, potentially clearing the way for gay marriage to be legal in the nation's most populous state.
The decision against the Defense of Marriage Act means that the federal government must recognize gay marriages in states where they are legal—so far 12, plus Washington D.C., and potentially, after today's ruling, California. It gives gay couples legally wed in those states access to more than 1,000 federal programs and benefits, including social security survivor benefits and family leave benefits.
The conservative-leaning Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote the ruling, which 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.”
In response to the ruling, President Barack Obama tweeted that it was a “historic step forward for #MarriageEquality."