Supreme Court Strikes Down Key Part of DOMA
Washington, D.C.-The gay rights movement saw a significant victory at the Supreme Court Wednesday, even as the court dodged the fundamental issue of whether marriage is a constitutionally-protected right for all couples, gay or straight.
In a 5-4 ruling in United States v. Windsor, the court struck down a provision of the 17-year-old Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) that denies federal benefits -- like Social Security benefits or the ability to file joint tax returns -- to same-sex couples legally married.
"DOMA is unconstitutional as a deprivation of the liberty of the person protected by the Fifth Amendment," Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote for the majority. "The history of DOMA's enactment and its own text demonstrate that interference with the equal dignity of same-sex marriages, a dignity conferred by the States in the exercise of their sovereign power, was more than an incidental effect of the federal statute. It was its essence."
In Nebraska, Supporters of same-sex marriage are looking at new possible challenges to a state constitutional amendment that defines marriage as the union of one man and one woman.
The U.S. Supreme Court's ruling on Wednesday had no direct impact on Nebraska's amendment, which voters approved with 70 percent support in 2000. But same-sex marriage supporters say they may push to repeal it.
Shelley Kiel, president of the Omaha-based Citizens for Equal Protection, says the court's decision to strike down the federal Defense of Marriage Act coincides with a growing acceptance of equal rights for gay and lesbian couples.
Dave Bydalek, executive director of the Lincoln-based Family First, says the nation's views may have shifted on gay marriage, but he still believes most Nebraskans want to preserve traditional, heterosexual marriages.
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The AP contributed to this report.