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Topic of the day: Court rules on DOMA and Prop 8

Published: Friday, July 31 2015 1:50 p.m. MDT

American University students Sharon Burk, left, and Molly Wagner, embrace outside the Supreme Court in Washington, Wednesday, June 26, 2013, after the court cleared the way for same-sex marriage in California by holding that defenders of California's gay marriage ban did not have the right to appeal lower court rulings striking down the ban.  (AP Photo/Charles Dharapak) (Charles Dharapak, ASSOCIATED PRESS) American University students Sharon Burk, left, and Molly Wagner, embrace outside the Supreme Court in Washington, Wednesday, June 26, 2013, after the court cleared the way for same-sex marriage in California by holding that defenders of California's gay marriage ban did not have the right to appeal lower court rulings striking down the ban. (AP Photo/Charles Dharapak) (Charles Dharapak, ASSOCIATED PRESS)

Today in a landmark decision, the Supreme Court ruled that the Defense of Marriage Act — an act passed in 1996 that legally defined marriage as a union between a man and a woman on the federal level — is unconstitutional in its denial of certain federal rights and benefits to same-sex couples married in states which allow same-sex marriage. The Supreme Court also ruled that a lower courts ruling that Proposition 8 — the law banning same-sex marriage in the state of California — stand, as the state of California refused to defend the case in front of the court leaving it up to the National Organization of Marriage, a private group.

The nation has been quick to react with statements and opinions flooding the Internet. The LDS Church released their official statement on the ruling, and Cardinal Timothy Dolan of New York reacted as well, while conservative politicians have been noticeably absent from the Internet on the ruling. But elsewhere there was plenty of reaction from private organizations that oppose same-sex marriage.

“It’s wrong, plain and simple. There’s a stench to these decisions that has stained the Supreme Court,” writes Brian Brown, head of the National Organization of Marriage — which took the task of defending Prop 8 in front of the Supreme Court — penned in a statement published on Fox News. “In my view, the worst of the two decisions is the Proposition 8 case. The National Organization for Marriage and our allies fought with everything we had to preserve marriage, the foundation of society itself.”

The Heritage Foundation — who yesterday released an info graphic that they believe highlights the strengths of traditional marriage and the weakness of same-sex marriage — was likewise quick to criticize the court’s “disturbing decisions” saying of the ruling on DOMA, “Here, the Court got it wrong. The Court ignored the votes of a large bipartisan majority of Members of Congress. It is absurd for the Court to suggest that Congress does not have the power to define the meaning of words in statutes that Congress itself has enacted.” They do however note that the Court’s decisions did not “create a constitutional right to same-sex marriage.”

Other reactions of approval were quick to appear. “The ruling, as expected, does not establish a universal right to same-sex marriage,” notes Jonathan Cohn at the New Republic. “Instead, Kennedy and the four liberal justices declared that DOMA deprives same-sex couples of 'equal protection' under the law. In so doing, legal experts tell me, the decision creates a legal principle (and political momentum) that advocates for same-sex marriage will be able to use across the country.”

George Chauncey notes in the New York Times that the long history of gay rights underscores what a monumental case this was for proponents of gay rights. “This decision was neither inevitable nor, until recently, even conceivable,” Chauncey states. “It was not until the 1980s that securing legal recognition for same-sex relationships became an urgent concern of lesbians and gay men. In the 1950s, such recognition was almost unimaginable … Federal benefits will dramatically improve the lives of countless people, from the lesbian widower who needs her wife’s Social Security benefits to hold onto her home to the gay New Yorker whose foreign husband will now be able to live with him in America. Lesbian and gay couples will no longer suffer the indignity of having the government treat their marriages as inferior.”

At The Atlantic, Philip Cohen goes so far as to say that the Courts decision now ends the legal argument that gay marriage hurts children. “The defenders of DOMA tried to argue that same-sex marriage is bad for children. But the majority accepted Justice Kennedy's argument (which he raised during oral arguments) that denying marriage hurts the children of these couples. DOMA, wrote Kennedy, ‘humiliates tens of thousands of children now being raised by same-sex couples.’”

Regardless of the decision, as noted before, the Court did not automatically legalize same-sex marriage. Instead, it allows same-sex couples married in one of the 13 states that does allow same-sex marriage to receive the same benefits that the federal government grants to heterosexual couples. However, many in the legal field are speculating that the ruling did lay the groundwork for a legal precedent to be argued in state governments.

Freeman Stevenson is a Snow College grad and is the DeseretNews.com opinion intern. Reach me at fstevenson@deseretdigital or @freemandesnews

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