World, US News : The US Supreme Court on Wednesday handed a significant victory to gay rights advocates by ruling that married gay men and women are eligible for federal benefits and paving the way for same-sex marriage in California.
The court, however, fell short of a landmark ruling endorsing a fundamental right for gay people to marry.
The two cases, both decided on 5-4 votes, concerned the constitutionality of a key part of a federal law, the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), that denied benefits to same-sex married couples and a California state law enacted in 2008, called Proposition 8, that banned gay marriage.
The court struck down a central part of DOMA and let stand a lower-court ruling throwing out California’s voter-approved ban on gay marriage.
The Supreme Court rulings come amid rapid progress for advocates of gay marriage in recent months and years in the United States and internationally. Opinion polls show a steady increase in US public support for gay marriage.
President Barack Obama applauded the court’s DOMA decision and directed US Attorney General Eric Holder to review all relevant federal laws to ensure the ruling is implemented.
“We are a people who declared that we are all created equal, and the love we commit to one another must be equal as well,” Obama, the first sitting president to endorse gay marriage, said in a written statement.
Obama said the ruling applies only to civil marriages and that how religious institutions define and consecrate marriages has always been up to those institutions.
Gay marriage is an issue that stirs cultural, religious and political passions in the United States as elsewhere. Gay marriage advocates celebrated outside the courthouse. An enormous cheer went up as word arrived that DOMA had been struck down. “DOMA is dead!” the crowd chanted, as couples hugged and cried.