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June 27, 2013

Supreme Court Declares DOMA Unconstitutional

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Gay rights activists claimed victory Wednesday after the Supreme Court decided to strike down the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), which denied legally married same-sex couples the same rights as their straight counterparts.

DOMA, signed in 1996 by President Clinton, defined marriage as between only one man and one woman. Although gay marriages may be recognized in some states, couples did not receive the same federal benefits such as hospital visitation rights, a right to file joint taxes and inherit property.

Click to see “15 Federal Benefits Same-Sex Couples Can Now Look Forward To”

The decision was made by 5-4 vote at the Supreme Court. Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote the majority opinion, explaining, “DOMA’s principal effect is to identify a subset of state-sanctioned marriages and make them unequal.”

Although same-sex marriages may be federally recognized, portions of DOMA were left intact. States are still not required to recognize same-sex unions from another state.

While many took to the streets of the capital to celebrate, those opposing same-sex marriages were disappointed in the decision. One woman expressed concern about what the ruling would mean for the definition of marriage.

“I’m afraid that this ruling will affect the definition of marriage,” she said.  “So that if it’s not one man and one woman, it can be any — anyone.”

The decision to make same-sex marriages legal still rests in the hands of the state.

Warm Up Questions

1. Why do people get married?

2. Is gay marriage legal in your state?

3. What is your definition of marriage?

Discussion Questions

1. Why do you think this marriage was argued at the Supreme Court?

2. Do you think states should decide if gay marriage is legal?

3. Why is the right to marry a central issue for gay rights advocates?

— Compiled by Carrie Waltemeyer for NewsHour Extra

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