“DOMA, passed by Congress and signed by President Clinton in 1996, prohibits federal recognition of same-sex marriages. Both the First and Second Circuit Court of appeals have struck down a provision of the law (called Section 3) that denies federal benefits, like Social Security benefits or the ability to file joint tax returns, to same-sex couples legally married. Because of these lower court rulings, DOMA has been declared unconstitutional in some regions of the country but not others.
In today’s oral arguments, the a majority of justices sounded skeptical of the law, according to CBS News’ Jan Crawford. The justices, however, gave different rationales for their conclusion — Justice Anthony Kennedy, for instance, focused on the concept of federalism, while the liberals on the court focused on the concept of equal protection under the law.
“After considering a challenge to California’s Proposition 8 ban on gay marriage Tuesday, the Supreme Court heard arguments today in a case seeking to overturn the Defense of Marriage Act, the 1996 law signed by President Bill Clinton that defined marriage as heterosexual and denied federal benefits to gay couples who are legally married in their states.
Between the two cases, the Supreme Court could issue a landmark ruling on gay marriage by the end of June.
Kennedy, viewed as a key swing vote, appeared critical of the federal government’s declining to recognize marriages that states have made legal. Kennedy voiced sympathy Tuesday for children of gay couples who want their parents’ unions to be recognized.