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Supreme Court:Part of DOMA Unconstitutional
Legislative and Policy
June 26, 2013
Crowd stands in front of the White house with rainbow flags in celebration of the falling of DOMA

The Supreme Court ruled that section III of the federal Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) unconstitutional. The Supreme Court also ruled to dismiss California's Proposition 8 for lack of standing. Here are some excerpts from the majority opinion:

“By seeking to injure the very class New York seeks to protect, DOMA violates basic due process and equal protection principles applicable to the Federal Government. 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.”

“DOMA’s principal effect is to identify and make unequal a subset of state-sanctioned marriages. It contrives to deprive some couples married under the laws of their State, but not others, of both rights and responsibilities, creating two contradictory marriage regimes within the same State. It also forces same-sex couples to live as married for the purpose of state law but unmarried for the purpose of federal law, thus diminishing the stability and predictability of basic personal relations the State has found it proper to acknowledge and protect.”


“DOMA’s unusual deviation from the usual tradition of recognizing and accepting state definitions of marriage here operates to deprive same-sex couples of the benefits and responsibilities that come with the federal recognition of their marriages. This is strong evidence of a Cite as: 570 U. S.  (2013) 21 Opinion of the Court law having the purpose and effect of disapproval of that class. The avowed purpose and practical effect of the law here in question are to impose a disadvantage, a separate status, and so a stigma upon all who enter into same-sex marriages made lawful by the unquestioned authority of the States.”

“DOMA undermines both the public and private significance of statesanctioned same-sex marriages; for it tells those couples, Cite as: 570 U. S.  (2013) 23 Opinion of the Court and all the world, that their otherwise valid marriagesare unworthy of federal recognition. This places same-sex couples in an unstable position of being in a second-tier marriage. The differentiation demeans the couple, whose moral and sexual choices the Constitution protects, see Lawrence, 539 U. S. 558, and whose relationship the State has sought to dignify. And it humiliates tens of thousands of children now being raised by same-sex couples. The law in question makes it even more difficult for the children to understand the integrity and closeness of their own family and its concord with other families in their community and in their daily lives.”

“Under DOMA, same-sex married couples have their lives burdened, by reason of government decree, in visible and public ways. By its great reach, DOMA touches manyaspects of married and family life, from the mundane to the profound. It prevents same-sex married couplesfrom obtaining government healthcare benefits they would otherwise receive.”


While this ruling is a cause for celebration and provides marriage equality for those couples living in states, countries, or districts that recognize all marriages (regardless of gender of the couples involved) this ruling does not immediately change much, if anything, in North Carolina. The decision ceded the right of determining what constitutes a valid marriage to the states. In North Carolina there are two state statues and a constitutional amendment that defines marriage as consisting only of "one man and one woman". No other marriages can be created or recognized by the state of North Carolina.

For more information on the practical impacts of the decision, please refer to the following legal resource:

Lambda Legal After DOMA