DOMA Repealed by Supreme Court in a 5-4 Decision

Thursday, June 27, 2013

In a landmark decision issued on June 26, 2013, by the Supreme Court, the federal Defense of Marriage Act (“DOMA”) was held to be unconstitutional as a deprivation of the equal liberty of persons that is protected by the Fifth Amendment. United States v. Windsor, 570 U. S. ____ (2013).

The Court concluded that “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.”

Justice Kennedy delivered the opinion of the Court, in which Justices Ginsburg, Breyer, Sotomayor, and Kagan joined. Justice Roberts filed a dissenting opinion. Justice Scalia filed a dissenting opinion, in which Justice Thomas joined, and in which Justice Roberts joined as to Part I. Justice Alito filed a dissenting opinion, in which Justice Thomas joined as to Parts II and III.

The entirety of the Court’s decision and other relevant information can be found at:

The repeal of DOMA will have far-ranging effects on the eligibility of employees and their same-sex spouses for a host of entitlements under federal law that had previously not been available to them.

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