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Supreme Court rules federal ban on gay marriage unconstitutional

The United States Supreme Court recently issued two major decisions regarding gay marriage. Worcester family law will certainly face big changes when it comes to domestic partnership issues in the wake of one of these decisions. It involved the Defense of Marriage Act, also referred to as DOMA. DOMA is a law banning the federal government from recognizing domestic partnerships and same-sex marriages legalized in individual states. In the 5-4 majority vote, the Supreme Court ruled that DOMA is unconstitutional.

The Supreme Court's opinion, written by Justice Kennedy, found that the federal law is invalid because it had no legitimate purpose in injuring those that individual states "sought to protect in personhood and dignity." DOMA was also held to be in violation of the Fifth Amendment since it effectively displaced the protection extended by certain states and treated those in same-sex marriages as unequal to those in traditional marriages.

DOMA was originally signed into law in 1996 by President Bill Clinton. The law blocked same-sex partners whose marriages were recognized in their home states from receiving large amounts of federal benefits available to other married individuals. The present lawsuit was filed by an 84-year-old who lost her same-sex partner. She had to pay $363,000 in federal inheritance taxes upon her spouse's death in 2009. She requested a refund from the Internal Revenue Service, which was denied. She then filed this lawsuit against the federal government.

The decision declaring DOMA as unconstitutional comes as a victory to same-sex partners and supporters of gay rights across America. After the statute was struck down, President Barack Obama released a statement praising the decision that will end discrimination against committed gay and lesbian couples.

Source: The Huffington Post, "Supreme Court DOMA decision rules federal same-sex marriage ban unconstitutional," June 26, 2013

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