Supreme Court Strikes Federal Defense of Marriage Act

On Wednesday, June 26, in U.S. v. Windsor, the U.S. Supreme Court struck down section 3 of the federal Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), which defines marriage for purposes of federal law as the union of one man and one woman. The court ruled that this provision of DOMA denies same-sex couples, who have been granted marriage licenses by their state, equal protection of law under the due process clause of Fifth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.

The ruling means that Edith Windsor, who paid taxes on her life partner’s estate at the time of her death because federal law did not recognize her as the surviving spouse in a legally recognized same-sex marriage, will now be paid back those taxes with interest.

In the companion Perry case, the court ruled that the supporters of California’s Prop 8 did not have legal standing to challenge a lower court ruling striking down Prop 8, which defined marriage for purposes of California law as the union of one man and one woman. The upshot of that decision is that California will most likely begin recognizing same-sex marriages in the near future.

Cardinal Timothy Dolan, President of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB), lamented the decisions in a statement, calling Wednesday a “tragic day for marriage and our nation.”  The Archdiocese of St. Louis also issued a statement, proclaiming that regardless of how the court or legislatures define marriage, the reality is that marriage is and forever will be the union of one man and one woman for life.

The Supreme Court went out of its way in the Windsor case to confine it’s ruling on DOMA to those “lawful marriages” already recognized by the states. In addition, the Court did not rule that there is a constitutional right to same-sex marriage, as many marriage redefinition advocates had hoped. Thus, Missouri’s Constitutional Amendment defining marriage as the union of one man and one woman is still good law …for now.

In light of Windsor, however, state constitutional marriage amendments like Missouri’s will face increasing scrutiny and probable legal challenges in the months and years to come.

Missouri passed its marriage amendment in 2004 by over a 70% majority. The MCC will continue to defend Missouri’s constitutional amendment on marriage.

May the Church forever proclaim the truth about what marriage is and why it is vital for the well being of men, women, children, and society as a whole!


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