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DOMA Defeated!

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Shouts of ‘Death to DOMA’ and ‘Equality for all’ rang out on the steps of the Supreme Court as hundreds gathered to hear the news that both same sex cases argued in court in March had made major strides forward for marriage equality on Wednesday.

The two cases, United States v. Windsor and Hollingsworth v. Perry, were decided as 5-4 decisions in favor of the plaintiffs.

United States v. Windsor, better known as the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) case involved Edith Windsor and her late partner Thea Spyer. Windsor, who sought to regain the $363,053 in federal estate taxes she had paid because she and Spyer were not recognized as a married couple under federal law.

The court ruled that section three of the act, enacted in 1996 under President Clinton, was unconstitutional on the grounds that the government cannot decide what kind of couple constitutes as married and therefore, cannot dictate which, if any, government benefits they receive.

In his majority opinion, Justice Antonin Kennedy, the deciding vote, wrote, “the Constitution’s guarantee of equality ‘must at the very least mean that a bare congressional desire to harm a politically unpopular group cannot’ justify disparate treatment of that group.”

In his dissent, Justice Anthony Scalia read aloud to the patrons of the court not to argue against same sex marriage rights, but to question the court’s standing in deciding the case at all.

“I think that this court has, and the Court of Appeals had, no power to decide this suit,” Scalia said.

Hollingsworth v. Perry, also known as the California Proposition 8 case, led the court to rule that the case did not have the right to be in the Supreme Court or in a federal appeals court when it came to defending from a constitutional standpoint. This ruling may set in motion the decision made by a California federal judge in 2010 to strike down Proposition 8; therefore making marriage in California legal.

The announcements of the rulings did not fall on deaf ears. From the crowd below Casey Oaks, 26, reacted with enthusiasm.

“I’m from New Jersey and me and my friends hopped on a bus at 3:00 a.m. to be here first thing in the morning,” Oaks said. “I came here and I really wanted Prop. 8 to be struck down but I think the ballgame is and always has been DOMA and we won that today hands down.”

On the street opposite of the Supreme Court just a few protesters of same sex marriage could be found who were not pleased with the rulings.

“Shame on us,” Washington, D.C. native Ronald Brock said. “God gave us warning after warning after warning and we need to pay attention. We are mocking God at this point.”

The courts rulings now place most of the responsibility for future progression in same sex marriage in the hands of each individual state. Twelve states, including Washington, D.C., currently allow gay marriage with benefits. Other states, such as Ohio, define marriage as that between a man and a woman.

“Any marriage entered into by persons of the same sex in any other jurisdiction shall be considered and treated in all respects as having no legal force or effect in this state and shall not be recognized by this state,” according to the Ohio state Constitution.

The state constitution continues to explain that any same sex marriage entered into the state will be considered void, an aspect that the court also addressed during Wednesday’s decisions. In the Windsor case, the unconstitutionality of DOMA gave the fate of marriage rights to each state. Whether or not states will acknowledge the union of same sex couples moving from sister states will be decided in future cases and legislation.

In light of the events, government officials took to Twitter to express their opinions. President Obama tweeted, “Today’s DOMA ruling is a historic step forward for marriage equality #MarriageEquality. #LoveIsLove.”

Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee (R) tweeted from the opposite point of view writing, “My thoughts on the SCOTUS ruling that determined that same sex marriage is okay: ‘Jesus wept.’”

Regardless of the decisions made on Wednesday, the hope for future change and a more proactive government in the crowd on the Court’s front steps were strong.

“It (the decisions) means a lot. It means that the federal government is taking a stand. I see it as the beginning of the real civil rights transformation,” Human Rights Campaign intern Danielle Berkowsky said.

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