Tyler Lynch

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The Defense of Marriage Act

On June 26, 2013, the United States Supreme Court ruled in Windsor v. United States that
Section 3 of the so-called Defense of Marriage Act, the 1996 law that denies legally married same-sex couples over 1,100 protections and responsibilities of marriage, is unconstitutional.

History of DOMA

DOMA was signed into law under President Bill Clinton on September 21, 1996. Under DOMA, married same-sex couples are denied a long list of protections and responsibilities, including Social Security survivor benefits, immigration rights, and family and medical leave.

Immediate impact of the June 2013 Supreme Court ruling for married same-sex couples?

All married couples, including same-sex couples, will be treated as married by the federal government no matter where they live.

However, for legally married same-sex couples (and widows or widowers) who have moved to or now live in a state that prohibits their marriages, access to federal marital protections is not automatic.

Under current law in the United States, the federal government defers to states in determining whether a couple’s marriage is valid. ¬†There is not one single rule as to whether the validity of a marriage is determined by the couple’s “place of celebration” (where the couple got married) or the couple’s “place of domicile” (where the couple is living).

Does the June 2013 Supreme Court ruling in Windsor mean that all states must respect the marriages of same-sex couples?

No. The ruling in Windsor does not tell states who they must allow to marry or how they must recognize marriages performed in other states. The decision says that the federal government can no longer deny married same-sex couples the protections of federal programs and policies that are afforded to all other married couples.

In February 2014, U. S Attorney General Holder told a meeting of the National Association of Attorneys General that state attorney generals are not obligated to defend state laws that they believe are discriminatory, including bans on gay marriage.