It also takes some pressure off Congress, where many Democratic lawmakers say they would like to see immigration reform deal with same-sex binational couples, but not at the expense of getting a bill passed. Republican senators have said that an amendment from Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) to allow married same-sex couples to receive immigration benefits is a "poison pill," and it almost certainly won't be included in the comprehensive "gang of eight" bill expected to pass the Senate later this week.
Under DOMA, same-sex couples are unable to petition for spousal green cards in the way heterosexual couples can. There are an estimated 40,000 binational same-sex couples in the U.S., according to the Williams Institute, a think tank affiliated with UCLA Law School.
Edit for Prop 8 ruling:
Chief Justice John Roberts, who wrote the majority opinion on Proposition 8, said referring to the previous federal appeals court decision on the case, "We have no authority to decide this case on the merits, and neither did the 9th Circuit."
Livestream at Source
The Supreme Court has ruled that the federal Defense of Marriage Act, which prevented gay marriages from being legally recognized by the federal government, is unconstitutional.
In a reportedly very broad 5-4 decision, the liberal wing of the court and Justice Kennedy—who wrote the opinion—struck down DOMA on the grounds that it violates the Fifth Amendment, depriving a class of persons from their equal liberty. Some language in the opinion indicates that California's anti-gay marriage Proposition 8 will be dismissed on standing grounds, after this opinion.
Justices Roberts and Scalia, both objecting on grounds of jurisdiction, wrote separate dissents; Scalia was joined by Thomas and in part by Roberts. Alito wrote a third dissent.
From the end of Kennedy's opinion:
The liberty protected by the Fifth Amendment’s Due Process Clause contains within it the prohibition against denying to any person the equal protection of the laws. [...] While the Fifth Amendment itself withdraws from Government the power to degrade or demean in the way this law does, the equal protection guarantee of the Fourteenth Amendment makes that Fifth Amendment right all the more specific and all the better understood and preserved.
The class to which DOMA directs its restrictions and restraints are those persons who are joined in same-sex marriages made lawful by the State. DOMA singles out a class of persons deemed by a State entitled to recognition and protection to enhance their own liberty. It imposes a disability on the class by refusing to acknowledge a status the State finds to be dignified and proper. DOMA instructs all federal officials, and indeed all persons with whom same-sex couples interact, including their own children, that their marriage is less worthy than the marriages of others. The federal statute is invalid, for no legitimate purpose overcomes the purpose and effect to disparage and to injure those whom the State, by its marriage laws, sought to protect in personhood and dignity. By seeking to displace this protection and treating those persons as living in marriages less respected than others, the federal statute is in violation of the Fifth Amendment.
President Obama's statement:
I applaud the Supreme Court’s decision to strike down the Defense of Marriage Act. This was discrimination enshrined in law. It treated loving, committed gay and lesbian couples as a separate and lesser class of people. The Supreme Court has righted that wrong, and our country is better off for it. We are a people who declared that we are all created equal – and the love we commit to one another must be equal as well.
This ruling is a victory for couples who have long fought for equal treatment under the law; for children whose parents’ marriages will now be recognized, rightly, as legitimate; for families that, at long last, will get the respect and protection they deserve; and for friends and supporters who have wanted nothing more than to see their loved ones treated fairly and have worked hard to persuade their nation to change for the better.
So we welcome today’s decision, and I’ve directed the Attorney General to work with other members of my Cabinet to review all relevant federal statutes to ensure this decision, including its implications for Federal benefits and obligations, is implemented swiftly and smoothly.
On an issue as sensitive as this, knowing that Americans hold a wide range of views based on deeply held beliefs, maintaining our nation’s commitment to religious freedom is also vital. How religious institutions define and consecrate marriage has always been up to those institutions. Nothing about this decision – which applies only to civil marriages – changes that.
The laws of our land are catching up to the fundamental truth that millions of Americans hold in our hearts: when all Americans are treated as equal, no matter who they are or whom they love, we are all more free.
DOMA ruling (77 pages)
Prop 8 ruling (35 pages)