This morning, in a 5-4 decision, the U.S. Supreme Court held in United States v. Windsor, that Section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act (“DOMA”) is a violation of the Fifth Amendment and thus unconstitutional. This means that all couples legally married under state law, whether same sex or opposite sex, will be afforded the same federal benefits and responsibilities. This includes filing joint income tax returns, protection under ERISA, and social security benefits, to name just a few.
In another 5-4 decision, the Supreme Court held the petitioners in Hollingsworth v. Perry did not have standing to bring the case. The petitioners are a group that supports Proposition 8, the California Constitutional Amendment prohibiting same sex marriage. The California governor and state officials refused to defend Proposition 8, and this group stepped in. Therefore, a decision by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit has no legal force and the Supreme Court sent the case back to the Ninth Circuit to be dismissed. This appears to mean the final order by the trial court will go into effect, which prohibits the California Attorney General and the Governor from enforcing Proposition 8.
In the days and weeks ahead we will have further discussion on how these landmark decisions will impact business owners and individuals.