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The 10 Best Excerpts From The Supreme Court's DOMA Decision


The majority had a lot of wonderful things to say in its ruling that DOMA violated the Constitution.

Now that you've had some time to digest news that DOMA is dead and gone, meaning that same-sex couples who are legally married will now be recognized by the federal government, we've compiled 10 excerpts from the majority decision delivered by Justice Kennedy, a man often described as the court's "swing vote" and whose decision helped tip the balance toward equality.

Reading through these quotes isn't just a more pleasant undertaking than sifting through the 77-page United States v. Windsor looking for the juicy bits. These excerpts help give you a sense of the majority's thinking: DOMA, a far-reaching law, made same-sex couples second class by refusing to recognize a union of "great import." Marriages, gay or straight, are strong, vibrant, and often beneficial agreements between two people, and therefore all should be treated the same, they say.

It's also clear that the rapid acceptance and passage of same-sex marriage in states like New York created momentum and urgency for the court, and also, you can see that President Obama and the Department of Justice, in refusing to defend DOMA, helped convince the majority, including Kennedy, that there was a constitutional disconnect to be tackled.

So, without further ado, ten awesome remarks from Justice Kennedy and his equality-minded colleagues on the Supreme Court:

1. Pg. 3: "The State's decision to give [same-sex couples] the right to marry conferred upon them a dignity and status of immense import. But the Federal Government uses the state-defined class for the opposite purpose--to impose restrictions and disabilities...DOMA violates basic due process and equal protection principles applicable to the Federal Government... DOMA's avowed purpose and practical effect are to impose a disadvantage, a separate status, and so a stigma upon all who enter into same-sex marriages made lawful by the unquestioned authority of the States."

2. Pg. 16: "The Executive's failure to defend the constitutionality of an Act of Congress based on a constitutional theory not yet established in judicial decisions has created a procedural dilemma."

3. Pg. 18: "The limitation of lawful marriage to heterosexual couples, which for centuries had been deemed both necessary and fundamental, came to be seen in New York and certain other States as an unjust exclusion."

4. Pg: 20: "DOMA seeks to injure the very class New York seeks to protect."

5. Pg. 22: "DOMA's principal effect is to identify a subset of state- sanctioned marriages and make them unequal. The prin- cipal purpose is to impose inequality, not for other reasons like governmental efficiency."

6. Pg. 24: "DOMA divests married same-sex couples of the duties and responsibilities that are an essential part of married life and that they in most cases would be honored to accept were DOMA not in force."

7. Pg. 25: "The history of DOMA's enactment and its own text demonstrate that interference with the equal dignity of same-sex marriages, a dignity conferred by the States in the exercise of their sovereign power, was more than an incidental effect of the federal statute. It was its essence."

8. Pg. 26: "By creating two contradictory marriage regimes within the same State, DOMA forces same-sex couples to live as married for the purpose of state law but unmarried for the purpose of federal law, thus diminishing the stability and predictability of basic personal relations the State has found it proper to acknowledge and protect...This places same-sex couples in an unstable position of being in a second-tier marriage."

9. Pg. 27: "Under DOMA, same-sex married couples have their lives burdened, by reason of government decree, in visible and public ways. By its great reach, DOMA touches many aspects of married and family life, from the mundane to the profound. It prevents same-sex married couples from obtaining government healthcare benefits they would otherwise receive... It deprives them of the Bankruptcy Code's special protections for domestic-support obligations.... It forces them to follow a complicated procedure to file their state and federal taxes jointly.... It prohibits them from being buried together in veterans' cemeteries."

10. Pg. 28: "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. By seeking to displace this protection and treating those persons as living in marriages less respected than others, the federal statute is in violation of the Fifth Amendment. This opinion and its holding are confined to those lawful marriages."

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Andrew Belonsky