DOMA Ruling Laid Groundwork to Overturn State Gay Marriage Bans, Lawyer Says

Therese Stewart, chief deputy in the San Francisco City Attorney’s Office, said that Justice Anthony Kennedy’s majority opinion last week striking down part of the federal Defense of Marriage Act provides a roadmap for gay rights groups and same-sex couples to pursue the next phase of litigation to achieve full marriage equality in the US.
July 3, 2013

The US Supreme Court has laid the legal groundwork to directly attack and overturn state bans on same-sex marriages, a lawyer involved in the recent historic gay rights cases at the high court said Tuesday.

Therese Stewart, chief deputy in the San Francisco City Attorney’s Office, said that Justice Anthony Kennedy’s majority opinion last week striking down part of the federal Defense of Marriage Act provides a roadmap for gay rights groups and same-sex couples to pursue the next phase of litigation to achieve full marriage equality in the US.

Ms. Stewart cited an ironic source for her analysis – the dissenting opinion of conservative Justice Antonin Scalia.

“I think Scalia is correct that this decision in the DOMA case will provide a real foundation even though it doesn’t exactly resolve the question,” Ms. Stewart said in a telephone briefing with members of the liberal legal group, the American Constitution Society.

The landmark decision declared that federal lawmakers who enacted DOMA in 1996 were motivated by a bare desire to harm and demean members of a politically unpopular group.

Justice Kennedy wrote that states that recognized same-sex marriages had done so out of a desire to protect the “personhood and dignity” of same-sex spouses.

He said there was no justification for the US government to enact a federal law with the purpose and effect of disparaging and injuring same-sex spouses by treating their state-endorsed relationships as second-class marriages or less.

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