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Supremes strike down “Defense of Marriage Act”

Wednesday, Jun 26, 2013

* From the US Supreme Court opinion

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.

Make sure to check the SCOTUS Blog for live updates.

I don’t usually post about national issues, but this is pretty relevant to Illinois’ debate over gay marriage, so I decided to go ahead with it. Please, do your best to avoid national political talking points here. Thanks.

…Adding… From Equality Illinois…

“The Supreme Court today affirmed America’s promise of equality by ruling that the federal government cannot ignore constitutional principles when it comes to gay and lesbian couples and their marriages, and it is a moment to celebrate. But today’s historic victory overturning the Defense of Marriage Act is bittersweet in the states like Illinois where couples are still denied the right and recognition of marriage. For anyone who doubts that civil unions in Illinois created an unacceptable second-class status, the court’s ruling is a powerful message that the state House urgently needs to join the Senate and pass the freedom to marry. It is crystal clear now that by failing to act the House denied gay and lesbian couples equal access to the federal protections that married couples in other states will now enjoy.”

* In his rather harsh dissent, Justice Scalia claims that the decision will be used to overturn state laws banning gay marriages, even though the opinion makes clear this the decision applies only to the federal law

By formally declaring anyone opposed to same-sex marriage an enemy of human decency, the majority arms well every challenger to a state law restricting marriage to its traditional definition. Henceforth those challengers will lead with this Court’s declaration that there is “no legitimate purpose” served by such a law, and will claim that the traditional definition has “the purpose and effect to disparage and to injure” the “personhood and dignity” of same-sex couples, see ante, at 25, 26. The majority’s limiting assurance will be meaningless in the face of language like that, as the majority well knows. That is why the language is there. The result will be a judicial distortion of our society’s debate over marriage—a debate thatcan seem in need of our clumsy “help” only to a member of this institution.

* From Gov. Pat Quinn…

“Today the Supreme Court took a historic step by providing equal access to more than 1,100 federal rights and benefits for same-sex couples.

“Members of the Illinois House now have more than 1,100 new reasons to make marriage equality the law in Illinois.

“This is a monumental day for freedom in the history of our nation. The opportunity to guarantee equal rights and benefits to all citizens - under both state and federal law - is one we must seize here in the Land of Lincoln without delay.

“Now is the time for all to put differences aside, band together and redouble our efforts to make it happen.

“I will continue working with members of the Illinois House and all of our tireless community advocates to bring marriage equality to Illinois as soon as possible.”

* The Tribune answers some questions that have popped up in comments

Because Illinois only allows civil unions and doesn’t recognize same-sex marriage, Camilla Taylor, an attorney with Lambda Legal in Chicago, said most gay and lesbian couples in the state are unlikely to see their status in the eyes of the federal government changed by today’s decision.

“In the vast majority of circumstances, Illinois couples in civil unions are uncertain, if not unlikely, to get any of these benefits,” she said.

Taylor said the Obama administration will have to provide guidance on how the government will treat same-sex couples who were legally married in another state and now live in Illinois. It’s possible, she said, that those couples will now have federal recognition.

“We should expect some federal guidance from the IRS, for example, on how same-sex couples will be treated in states like Illinois if they got married in a state like Iowa, where they can legally marry,” Taylor said.

* Journal Star

The U.S. Supreme Court ruling Wednesday giving married same-sex couples access to federal benefits will have little impact in Illinois unless the state legalizes same-sex marriage, a spokesman for the ACLU of Illinois said.

The court’s decision to strike down the section of the Defense of Marriage Act, or DOMA, that denies federal benefits to married same-sex couples applies to couples in the 12 states and the District of Columbia where same-sex marriage is legal.

“It also means couples in civil unions in Illinois don’t have access to those benefit because they are not married,” said Ed Yohnka, spokesman for the American Civil Liberties Union of Illinois. “Frankly, the House ought to convene and pass the marriage bill.”

* These stories have lots of react…

* Sun-Times: Supporters hope DOMA ruling pushes Illinois House on gay marriage

* NBC5: Illinois Reacts To Supreme Court’s DOMA Ruling

- Posted by Rich Miller        

58 Comments
  1. - ChicagoR - Wednesday, Jun 26, 13 @ 9:25 am:

    Now I hope the folks on here who said “Why do you need marriage if you already have civil unions?” figure it out.


  2. - Madison - Wednesday, Jun 26, 13 @ 9:31 am:

    Another ill fated attempt to legislate morality. Scalia’s role in this decision was disgraceful.


  3. - Rahm'sMiddleFinger - Wednesday, Jun 26, 13 @ 9:32 am:

    Wonderful news to start a rainy day.


  4. - ZC - Wednesday, Jun 26, 13 @ 9:38 am:

    Now to be strict, all laws legislate morality. And I say this as someone who is very pro-gay marriage and very happy to see DOMA go down. But “morality” doesn’t equal “things that ought to be left to private consenting adults.” It’s not moral to shoot someone on the street, either, but government isn’t saying, “Oh, we’re not passing any judgment on whether this is a good or bad thing - just don’t do it.”

    But this isn’t any better, in the long run, for those who support DOMA and oppose gay marriage. What the Supreme Court is saying - gradually - is joining the growing number of state legislatures who are saying: gay marriage is a good thing. It is a moral thing. It is as American as apple pie and 4th of July fireworks.

    That boat has not yet docked. But it’s set sail and it’s on its way, if you look at the demographic opinion data by age. People who still oppose gay marriage and want it to be still referred to in a critical fashion or at least a values-neutral way, in public discourse, all I can say is, prepare yourself.


  5. - Montrose - Wednesday, Jun 26, 13 @ 9:43 am:

    So, the big question is, does this change any votes? It is a great and valid new argument for marriage equality in Illinois, but can it be used to get the roll call to 60?


  6. - Allen Skillicorn - Wednesday, Jun 26, 13 @ 9:43 am:

    Does this affect IL’s civil unions? Can CU’s now file taxes as married according to the feds?


  7. - walkinfool - Wednesday, Jun 26, 13 @ 9:43 am:

    They clearly found and stated what we knew: DOMA did not “defend” marriage, it “diminished” it.


  8. - Oswego Willy - Wednesday, Jun 26, 13 @ 9:54 am:

    - Montrose -,

    That is the question. On its own, I don’t know if it “moves” anyone, but as another solid rationale to changing from a “no” to “yes”, it may have an impact. It adds another stone to the side of the scale to vote “yes”, but it may not fully tip the scale.

    If Rep. Harris comes out with a statement, or if others close to the legislative issue have somethng to say about the developement, that might give a clearer indication how this ruling will be leveraged in trying to get to 60.

    I thought about the exact same thing, - Montrose -.


  9. - CircularFiringSquad - Wednesday, Jun 26, 13 @ 9:54 am:

    Historic Day. Hopefully a wake up call to state officials across the country


  10. - Wensicia - Wednesday, Jun 26, 13 @ 9:55 am:

    ==Can CU’s now file taxes as married according to the feds?==

    No, the decision applies to legal gay marriages, not civil unions. This is why it’s important for Illinois to get gay marriage into law.


  11. - ZC - Wednesday, Jun 26, 13 @ 10:03 am:

    This decision may apply only to legal marriages and not civil unions, but expect that lawsuit, demanding full federal benefits for state civil unions in 3…2…1… (if it hasn’t already been filed, anyone know?) And legal experts out there, could there be a case for the federal government to withhold marriage-like treatment for state civil unions, after this decision?


  12. - Ken_in_Aurora - Wednesday, Jun 26, 13 @ 10:06 am:

    About flippin’ time, IMO.


  13. - ZC - Wednesday, Jun 26, 13 @ 10:06 am:

    Also, this ruling should help the mood at the Pride Parade this Sunday …


  14. - Small Town Liberal - Wednesday, Jun 26, 13 @ 10:11 am:

    Great news, and great response by the Governor. I wish he had a bill to sign, but hopefully this gets the house off the dime and we can join the right side of history on this.

    I’m looking forward to joining the celebration at the Pride Parade this weekend.


  15. - wishbone - Wednesday, Jun 26, 13 @ 10:13 am:

    “It is a great and valid new argument for marriage equality in Illinois, but can it be used to get the roll call to 60?”

    I think it has to. By not adopting same sex marriage, Illinois will now be denying to its citizens millions of dollars of Federal economic benefits that could be flowing into our economy. The 12 states that recognize gay marriage will be getting a huge financial subsidy from all those who don’t. Illinois with its overwhelming economic problems can’t leave those millions on the table.


  16. - 47th Ward - Wednesday, Jun 26, 13 @ 10:14 am:

    Great day for civil liberties in America. We’re finally in the 21st century on gay rights.

    Unfortunately, yesterday’s ruling on Voting Rights sends us back about 50 years.

    One step forward, one step back.


  17. - John Jacob Jingleheimer Schmidt - Wednesday, Jun 26, 13 @ 10:27 am:

    >>>>>> This is why it’s important for Illinois to get gay marriage into law.

    Or schedule two day trips to Iowa…


  18. - Bigtwich - Wednesday, Jun 26, 13 @ 10:27 am:

    –does this change any votes?–

    Illinois law treats civil unions as marriage. I do not know of any provision in federal law that gives any benefits to civil unions. The DOMA prevented same sex marriage from receiving any benefits. So, before this decision recognition of same sex marriage would not provide any more benefits then civil unions. Now it will. This changes the argument for recognition of same sex marriage from symbolism to fairness. I would hope that would cause people to change their approach to the issue.


  19. - Dude Abides - Wednesday, Jun 26, 13 @ 10:30 am:

    This was overdue and the ruling is not a surprise. It’s a good day for those who believe that everyone should be treated equally under the law. This might actually be an issue that our incompetent Governor won’t flip flop a half dozen times on before signing into law.


  20. - Anyone Remember? - Wednesday, Jun 26, 13 @ 10:40 am:

    Scalia has been wrong before, he’ll be wrong again, and this may or may not be another case.


  21. - Northsider - Wednesday, Jun 26, 13 @ 10:41 am:

    47th: Spot on. And did you notice how Scalia had no problem overturning a Congressionally approved law yesterday, but hates that the court did so today?

    I hope the DOMA decision gives some of the more wobbly state reps a bit more backbone in voting for marriage equality here.


  22. - Liberty First - Wednesday, Jun 26, 13 @ 10:47 am:

    “The differentiation demeans the couple, whose moral and sexual choices the Constitution protects, and whose relationship the state has sought to dignify.” Anthony Kennedy–


  23. - Amalia - Wednesday, Jun 26, 13 @ 10:48 am:

    marriage for all in Illinois, asap.


  24. - Formerly Known As... - Wednesday, Jun 26, 13 @ 10:48 am:

    Bad day for Mike Madigan based on response from the GLBT community thus far.


  25. - Grandson of Man - Wednesday, Jun 26, 13 @ 10:50 am:

    I hope the Supremes’ decision further invigorates the SSM movement in Illinois and changes some minds. Rep. Harris was unjustly criticized in my opinion for his bill not getting called for a vote. The bill didn’t have the votes, but now with the court decision, the foundation is larger for future attempts at SSM legalization.


  26. - Esquire - Wednesday, Jun 26, 13 @ 10:55 am:

    It is a narrow ruling limited to the Federal DOMA law. Taken together with the other ruling on Proposition 8, the SCOTUS seemed to be delivering the message that this is a state issue. The fate of SSM seems to be placed in the state legislature.


  27. - Aldyth - Wednesday, Jun 26, 13 @ 10:57 am:

    In fifty years, a whole other generation will look back at this and wonder why in the world it took so long?


  28. - Chavez-respecting Obamist - Wednesday, Jun 26, 13 @ 11:01 am:

    Great graphic in the NYT explaining the rulings effect on various states http://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2013/03/24/us/how-the-court-could-rule-on-same-sex-marriage.html?_r=0


  29. - Anonymous - Wednesday, Jun 26, 13 @ 11:15 am:

    Unrelated, but the CD 10 crosstab link is not working


  30. - Rich Miller - Wednesday, Jun 26, 13 @ 11:29 am:

    ===CD 10 crosstab link is not working===

    Fixed. Thanks.


  31. - Montrose - Wednesday, Jun 26, 13 @ 11:30 am:

    *I think it has to. By not adopting same sex marriage, Illinois will now be denying to its citizens millions of dollars of Federal economic benefits that could be flowing into our economy.*

    That is a really good point, as is Bigtwitch’s point on shifting from symbolism to fairness. For many of those that are a no or on the fence, these might not mean much, but you only need a few to grab on to one of these arguments and say that it has pushed them to a yes. I actually think this might help socially moderate Republicans the most.


  32. - Esquire - Wednesday, Jun 26, 13 @ 11:32 am:

    After reading some of the relevant reports, the impact of the rulings are quite limited. SSM is still prohibited in thirty-eight states. The Federal DOMA law was struck, but the facts in the underlying case supported the outcome in that the Plaintiff resided in NY which recognized SSM as legal. As such, the Federal DOMA law impacted upon the surviving partner’s tax situation.

    The Proposition 8 case was disposed of due to a lack of standing. SSM may resume in California as result, but the ruling is hardly a ringing endorsement. SCOTUS said that the private party supporters of traditional marriage had no standing to be in court; the case turned solely on the refusal of the California state officials to participate in the case.


  33. - Oswego Willy - Wednesday, Jun 26, 13 @ 11:34 am:

    ===I actually think this might help socially moderate Republicans the most.===

    A very scarce breed in the HGOP Caucus …just saying.

    I would think this helps the AA Caucus, giving them the “cover” of the SCOTUS decision, while adding another rock on the “yes” side of the scale.


  34. - austinman - Wednesday, Jun 26, 13 @ 11:37 am:

    this issue should be decided by the voters not by referendum. Im sure a majority of voters in Illinois want this.


  35. - it'smyopinion - Wednesday, Jun 26, 13 @ 11:39 am:

    Wishbone, good point and could you please start writing the new fact sheet:

    “By not adopting same sex marriage, Illinois will now be denying to its citizens millions of dollars of Federal economic benefits that could be flowing into our economy.”

    Add charts, graphs, large numbers in bold, and a rainbow colored flag.

    Leave off the recent advice of the ACLU of Illinois. “Frankly, the House ought to convene and pass the marriage bill.”

    I’m not sure that moves anyone that isn’t already a yes vote.


  36. - 47th Ward - Wednesday, Jun 26, 13 @ 11:42 am:

    ===I actually think this might help socially moderate Republicans the most.===

    Agreed, but I’d add it helps the GOP the most long-term by finally getting past this issue (assuming SSM becomes law in Illinois now). I know a lot of gay friends who are fiscally conversative and favor a pro-business, low tax and limited government philosophy. They’ve been voting for Democrats primarily because of this single issue and soon will be free to support candidates that appeal to their pocketbooks now that they’ve stopped peaking into their bedroom windows.

    SSM created an enormous amount of energy for Democrats that may dissipate if/when Illinois passes marriage equality.


  37. - Oswego Willy - Wednesday, Jun 26, 13 @ 11:43 am:

    - austinman -,

    Since our State is not California, just having a referendum is not in the cards.

    Even a constitutional amendment needs General Assembly votes.

    It might help if Bruce Rauner is reminded of this too.


  38. - Montrose - Wednesday, Jun 26, 13 @ 11:44 am:

    *I would think this helps the AA Caucus, giving them the “cover” of the SCOTUS decision, while adding another rock on the “yes” side of the scale.*

    Perhaps. It seems to me most of the push back they are getting is the morality argument, which is not affected by this ruling.

    Who voted for civil unions but is on record as opposed to marriage? There is your sweet spot with this decision.


  39. - Oswego Willy - Wednesday, Jun 26, 13 @ 11:53 am:

    - 47th Ward -

    Please. Stop making sense!

    Save it for the Casino Act and the statewide tour. Let me know when you get your contract and tour dates and location packet for the Bus Tour.

    To your Post, - 47th Ward -,

    You are Spot-On, I would have loved to have seen Cross get enough GOP House members on the Bill to pass it se My Party can move on.

    - Montrose -,

    It’s about the “cover” it provides, pivoting off the morality, and using the ruling as a crutch to offset the morality concerns. You can’t ask for a better place to look for cover on legal issues in the United States then the Supreme Court, with a ruling in hand to point to to make a case to switch a vote.


  40. - Formerly Known As... - Wednesday, Jun 26, 13 @ 11:54 am:

    7-2 or 9-0 would have moved votes.

    5-4? Maybe, but not much.

    Regardless, this is supposed to be one reason why we have so many Dems in the Illinois legislature. It was supposedly those evil Republicans preventing progress on marriage equality and similar issues.

    So much for that.


  41. - wordslinger - Wednesday, Jun 26, 13 @ 12:02 pm:

    Pretty sad when this Supreme Court is a step ahead of an Illinois House Dem super-majority on this issue.

    Scratch that. Sad that it’s ahead of an Illinois House majority, period. Plenty of Independents would take another look the Illinois GOP if more lawmakers had Kirk’s guts on the issue.,

    Scalia long ago gave up any pretense of being anything but a super-legislator from the bench. He has a partisan agenda and he pursues it vigorously.

    He’s not the first justice to do so by any means, but he’s the first who still claims to be an “originalist.”


  42. - AB - Wednesday, Jun 26, 13 @ 12:28 pm:

    Thank you Illinois for allowing civil unions and requiring me to file a joint income tax return as “married” but in order to do so I have to file a ‘mock’ federal as if married return. I can’t file it withe Feds and must file fed return as single. Even today’s ruling doesn’t change that procedure. Do we all now see the distinction between a civil union and marriage?


  43. - Palos Park Bob - Wednesday, Jun 26, 13 @ 12:46 pm:

    =“Today the Supreme Court took a historic step by providing equal access to more than 1,100 federal rights and benefits for same-sex couples.=

    Wow. 1100 “rights and benefits”? and we wonder why we’re $16 trillion in debt…..

    Anyone know where the list of rights and benefits can be found? My wife and I would like to find out if WE’RE getting all our rights and benefits as a hetero couple!


  44. - QC Examiner - Wednesday, Jun 26, 13 @ 12:53 pm:

    Dick Durbin voted for DOMA back in ‘96—has he issued a statement on the recent ruling yet?

    Maybe he wants everyone to forget he was for it before he was against it. lol


  45. - reformer - Wednesday, Jun 26, 13 @ 1:04 pm:

    In light of this decision striking down part of DOMA, it’s clear opponents of marriage equality made a strategic mistake when they did not push for a constitutional amendment during the late 90s and early 2000s when they still had momentum. It’s too late now.

    == For anyone who doubts that civil unions in Illinois created an unacceptable second-class status… ==

    Funny, I don’t recall Equality IL opposing civil unions when they came up in 2010.


  46. - 47th Ward - Wednesday, Jun 26, 13 @ 1:10 pm:

    ===Wow. 1100 “rights and benefits”? and we wonder why we’re $16 trillion in debt.===

    *sigh*

    Two wars paid for on credit cards, unfunded medicare expansion, biggest financial crisis since 1929, a decade of tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans.

    Where’ve you been PPBob? Do you really think the rights and benefits associated with marriage are bankrupting America or are you being intentionally ignorant?


  47. - reformer - Wednesday, Jun 26, 13 @ 1:13 pm:

    47th

    From what you wrote, it sounds to me as if Democrats would benefit in 2014 if the Harris bill does not pass, because the issue would stay prominent, to the detriment of the GOP. Opposition to marriage equality makes the GOP appear stiff-necked, out of touch, and against equality. Hence it would seem a good move politically for the Dems to no pass it on their own. Leave the GOP twisting slowly in the wind next year explaining why they oppose equality.


  48. - Levi - Wednesday, Jun 26, 13 @ 1:30 pm:

    My two cents, as an attorney (though a criminal, not constitutional, one): Illinois’s civil union law makes explicit that it confers every right, obligation, and benefit on civilly united spouses that it does on married spouses. Today’s DOMA decision says the federal government has to respect the decisions that States have made about how to treat gay couples and cannot disfavor what those States have favored. I’m going to go out on a limb and say that if Illinois says gay couples are the same as straight couples in everything but the name, then today’s decision means that for federal purposes, the federal government has to treat civilly united couples the same, as well. I don’t think it’s certain, but I certainly don’t think it’s as unclear the other way as Equality Illinois and the ACLU say it is. After all, they are advocacy organizations with vested interests in turning up the heat on the General Assembly to pass the marriage bill. And I’m all for that. But I think nothing at all prevents civilly united couples from filing joint tax returns now in good faith, or filing amended returns for prior years following their unions, or applying for other federal protections. I think every civilly united federal employee in Illinois should move immediately to put his or her spouse — and it IS a spouse, under the Illinois civil unions law — onto federal insurance.


  49. - ChicagoR - Wednesday, Jun 26, 13 @ 1:41 pm:

    “Funny, I don’t recall Equality IL opposing civil unions when they came up in 2010.”

    They supported second class citizenship because it was better than no class at all. The next step is equality.


  50. - Cincinnatus - Wednesday, Jun 26, 13 @ 2:01 pm:

    Remember, it was two Justices, appointed by Republicans Reagan and GWB, that overturned the tyranny signed by Democrat Bill Clinton.


  51. - Levi - Wednesday, Jun 26, 13 @ 2:07 pm:

    Just one Republican, Cincinnatus. Don’t know which GWB appointee you think overturned DOMA.


  52. - wordslinger - Wednesday, Jun 26, 13 @ 2:47 pm:

    –Remember, it was two Justices, appointed by Republicans Reagan and GWB, that overturned the tyranny signed by Democrat Bill Clinton.–

    Cincy, slow down, daddio. I know you’re in a hurry to make some silly hyper-partisan point, but double-check it first.

    But I’m glad to hear that you think DOMA was bad public policy. Are we to assume your boss has seen the light, too? You guys are nearly word-for-word on some subjects.


  53. - Cincinnatus - Wednesday, Jun 26, 13 @ 2:50 pm:

    You can assume nothing, Wordslinger.


  54. - wordslinger - Wednesday, Jun 26, 13 @ 3:06 pm:

    Cincy, since you called DOMA “tyranny,” am I safe to assume you thought it was bad public policy?


  55. - muon - Wednesday, Jun 26, 13 @ 3:51 pm:

    In the Illinois Civil Union Act parties to a civil union are defined as equivalent to spouses for state law. In the DOMA case it looks like the unconstitutional section is not just about the definition of marriage, but also the definition of spouse. In fact the DOMA case is about a tax benefit for a spouse. If the decision says that the federal definition must include whatever the state says it should, wouldn’t the DOMA decision apply to spouses in civil unions for those federal statutes that rely on the word spouse?


  56. - ChicagoR - Wednesday, Jun 26, 13 @ 3:55 pm:

    Muon - I am assuming that issue will be litigated as well.


  57. - wishbone - Wednesday, Jun 26, 13 @ 6:26 pm:

    “…wouldn’t the DOMA decision apply to spouses in civil unions for those federal statutes that rely on the word spouse?”

    That would require an opinion by the Attorney General of our state, and we know she doesn’t do those.


  58. - Just Me - Thursday, Jun 27, 13 @ 12:06 am:

    For many of us, today is kind of like when we were kids and it was Halloween. We just don’t want to go to sleep because we don’t want the fantastic feelings of equality and opportunity to end.

    We know that unfortunately tomorrow we’ll wake up and we’ll still have to prove ourselves to the rest of the State to get the rights that SCOTUS said we are rightfully owed.


Sorry, comments for this post are now closed.


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