Supreme Court strikes down provision of the federal Defense of Marriage Act

The Supreme Court says legally married same-sex couples should get the same federal benefits as heterosexual couples.

The court invalidated a provision of the federal Defense of Marriage Act Wednesday that has prevented married gay couples from receiving a range of tax, health and retirement benefits that are generally available to married people. The vote was 5-4.

Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote the majority opinion.

"Under DOMA, same-sex married couples have their lives burdened, by reason of government decree, in visible and public ways," Kennedy said.

"DOMA's principal effect is to identify a subset of state-sanctioned marriages and make them unequal," he said.

Read the decision.

Top New York leaders are reacting to the Supreme Court's decision.

Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand tweeted, "Thrilled #SCOTUS has struck down discriminatory #DOMA. Today is truly a historic day in our march toward #LGBT equality!"

Rep. Dan Maffei tweeted, "I'm very pleased with SCOTUS's decision to strike down DOMA. All Americans deserve equal protection under the law."

Gov. Andew Cuomo said, "Todayâ??s decisions by the Court are groundbreaking civil rights victories for the LGBT community and a major step forward in our efforts to achieve full marriage equality in this nation... From the Stonewall Riots 44 years ago this week, to the passage of marriage equality in New York, to todayâ??s decision to overturn the Defense of Marriage Act that originated from a case brought by a New York resident, this state has been at the forefront of this movement. It is my hope that todayâ??s breakthrough decisions will propel our nation forward and finally allow all Americans to be granted the same rights and protections under the law."

New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman issued a statement saying, in part, "The Supreme Courtâ??s decision to strike down the discriminatory Defense of Marriage Act is a historic victory for the quintessentially American principle of equal justice under the law. Gay and lesbian Americans and their families have not only gained legal rights; but shed the unjust stigma that comes with being victims of legally sanctioned discrimination. Our nation has moved one step closer to fulfilling our founding ideals, and I am proud that New York was on the right side of history in this case.â??

Syracuse Mayor Miner tweeted, "Hope will never be silent. Today we heard it scream. #NoMoreDOMA -Mayor Miner"

â??Harvey Milk once said hope will never be silent. Today we saw hope scream. The Supreme Courtâ??s decision today gives families in Syracuse, across New York, and across the country the legal legitimacy to match their love and devotion. It is a victory we can all celebrate and one I take to heart," said Miner in a statement. "Since taking office, I have been a staunch supporter of marriage equality. I joined the Mayors for Freedom to Marry coalition. In July 2011, I proudly opened City Hall to perform same sex marriages the first day I could. The fight for LGBT equality is important to all Americans. It is not yet over but it is an honor to stand with our brothers and sisters honoring this achievement today.â??

Former President Bill Clinton is welcoming the Supreme Court decision striking down a provision of the Defense of Marriage Act, which he signed into law in 1996. In a joint statement with former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, the former president said the court recognized that discrimination toward any group holds all Americans back in efforts to form a more perfect union. The Clintons also said they were encouraged that gay marriage may soon resume in California. They congratulated the advocates and plaintiffs in the cases.

The Supreme Court also ruled Wednesday that defenders of California's gay marriage ban did not have the right to appeal lower court rulings striking down the ban, clearing the way for same-sex marriage in California. The vote was 5-4.

The high court itself said nothing about the validity of gay marriage bans in California and roughly three dozen other states.

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