In a 5-4 ruling this morning the U.S. Supreme Court deemed section 3 of the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act -- the part that prohibited same-sex couples from tax breaks and other benefits associated with marriage -- unconstitutional on equal protection grounds. It also toppled an appeal of a landmark California case against Proposition 8. And yes, that means church bells will be ringing in the Castro.
But not today. City attorney Dennis Herrera says it'll be about a month before San Francisco starts issuing gay marriage licenses again.
Justice Kennedy, who wrote the opinion on DOMA, argued that the law violated a tradition of Congress allowing states to create their own marriage laws, and that it also infringed upon a class of people that New York and 11 other states sought to protect. Citing the High Court's 1967 opinion on interracial marriage in Loving v. Virginia, he reiterated that marriage, and individual states' rights to protect it, should both be "subject to certain constitutional guarantees." That also means gay couples should get the same federal benefits as straight couples.
The High Court's announcement, which drew hundreds of thousands of internet viewers to SCOTUS' live blog this morning, had as much seismic force as all of the historical civil rights rulings that predate it -- from Brown v. Board of Education to the Loving case. Chief Justice John Roberts and Justices Samuel Alito, Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas dissented.
The Prop 8 component hinged on a California court battle waged by two couples -- Paul Katami and Jeff Zarrillo from Burbank, and Kristin Perry and Sandy Stier from Berkeley -- who challenged California's Proposition 8 law because it forbid them to marry. The couples joined forces at the behest of Los Angeles-based American Foundation for Equal Rights and created the roadmap to challenge DOMA. Bolstered by two powerhouse attorneys, David Boies and Theodore Olson, the plaintiffs won both in the Northern California District Court and in the 9th Circuit. They were widely considered perfect torchbearers for LGBT equality -- Perry and Stier have four grown boys and unfinished wedding plans; Zarrillo and Katami have as much media appeal as an interracial couple with the surname "Loving."
Chief Justice Roberts wrote the opinion on Prop 8. He was joined by conservative justice Scalia and liberal justices Ginsburg, Kagan, and Breyer.