Defense of Marriage Act Provision Struck Down

June 26 (Bloomberg) -- Bloomberg chief Washington correspondent Peter Cook reports that a divided U.S. Supreme Court overturned the federal law that defines marriage as a heterosexual union in a 5-4 vote, on the grounds that it violates the rights of married gay couples by denying them government benefits. He speaks on Bloomberg Television's "Market Makers."

A divided U.S. Supreme Court overturned the federal law that defines marriage as a heterosexual union, saying it violates the rights of married gay couples by denying them government benefits.

The vote on the Defense of Marriage Act was 5-4. Justice Anthony Kennedy joined the four Democratic-appointed justices in the majority.

The law “places same-sex couples in an unstable position of being in a second-tier marriage,” Kennedy wrote for the court. “The differentiation demeans the couple, whose moral and sexual choices the Constitution protects, and whose relationship the state has sought to dignify.”

The court will act momentarily on a second gay-marriage case, involving California’s Proposition 8, which bars same-sex couples from marrying.

The historic cases, which marked the first time the high court had ever considered gay-marriage rights, reached the justices as the movement was showing unprecedented momentum. Twelve states and the District of Columbia have legalized same-sex marriage, six of them in the last year.

Joining Kennedy in the majority on the Defense of Marriage Act ruling were Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Stephen Breyer, Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan.

Dissenting were Chief Justice John Roberts and Justices Antonin Scalia, Clarence Thomas and Samuel Alito.

Photographer: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

People rally outside the U.S. Supreme Court building during arguments in a case challenging the Defense of Marriage Act in Washington, D.C., March 27, 2013. Close

People rally outside the U.S. Supreme Court building during arguments in a case... Read More

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Photographer: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

People rally outside the U.S. Supreme Court building during arguments in a case challenging the Defense of Marriage Act in Washington, D.C., March 27, 2013.

“We have no power under the Constitution to invalidate this democratically adopted legislation,” Scalia wrote in dissent.  

To contact the reporter on this story: Greg Stohr in Washington at gstohr@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Steven Komarow at skomarow1@bloomberg.net

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