UPDATE (10: 50 a.m.): The Supreme Court, in a 5-4 vote Wednesday, ruled that proponents of California’s Proposition 8, which is a state constitutional amendment defining marriage as between one man and one woman, did not have standing in the case to appeal it at the federal level. The decision not to decide leaves in place the initial trial court declaration that Proposition 8 is unconstitutional. California officials likely will rely on that ruling to allow the resumption of same-sex marriages in about a month.
The high court said nothing about the validity of same-sex marriage in California and roughly three-dozen other states.
The vote was not along ideological lines.
Chief Justice John Roberts wrote the majority opinion, joined by Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Stephen Breyer, Elena Kagan, and Antonin Scalia.
“We have no authority to decide this case on the merits, and neither did the 9th Circuit,” wrote Roberts, referring to the federal appeals court that also struck down Proposition 8.
Four justices, Anthony Kennedy, Samuel Alito, Clarence Thomas, and Sonia Sotomayor, said the court should have decided the constitutional question that was before it in this case.
OUR EARLIER REPORT: The Supreme Court invalidated a provision of the federal Defense of Marriage Act Wednesday. DOMA, which easily passed Congress and was signed into law by President Bill Clinton in 1996, kept married same-sex couples from receiving some tax, health, and retirement benefits generally available to those in traditional marriages. The vote was 5-4.
Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote the majority opinion.
Same-sex marriage is legal in 12 states and the District of Columbia. Another 18,000 couples were married in California during a brief period when same-sex marriage was legal there.
“Under DOMA, same-sex married couples have their lives burdened, by reason of government decree, in visible and public ways,” Kennedy wrote. “DOMA’s principal effect is to identify a subset of state-sanctioned marriages and make them unequal.”
Kennedy was joined by the court’s four liberal justices.
Chief Justice John Roberts and Justices Samuel Alito, Antonin Scalia, and Clarence Thomas dissented.
Scalia read his dissent aloud, saying the court should not have decided the case.
But, given that it did, he said, “we have no power under the Constitution to invalidate this democratically adopted legislation.”
The court has yet to release its decision on California’s Proposition 8, which defined marriage as only between one man and one woman.
Look for a complete report from WORLD’s Emily Belz later today.