US Supreme Court Declares DOMA Unconstitutional

Mandy Van Deven, Online Administrator

Today, we celebrate another historic sexual rights victory in the Western Hemisphere! In a 5-4 ruling, the US Supreme Court has declared that the federal Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) is unconstitutional.

Enacted in 1996 by the Clinton Administration, DOMA is a law preventing the federal government from recognizing same-sex marriage, which is currently legal in 13 states.

"The federal statute is invalid, for no legitimate purpose overcomes the purpose and effect to disparage and to injure those whom the State, by its marriage laws, sought to protect in personhood and dignity,” wrote Justice Anthony Kennedy, on behalf of the majority opinion. "By seeking to displace this protection and treating those persons as living in marriages less respected than others, the federal statute is in violation of the Fifth Amendment."

Although the court's decision does not impact the right of individual US states to not recognize same-sex marriages that are performed in other states, it does put an end to same-sex unions being "treated as second-class marriage."

The United States has joined the many Latin American countries that have shown encouraging signs of progress toward creating supportive environments for LGBT people. In 2010, Argentina was the first country in the region to legally recognize same-sex marriage. This year, Brazil and Uruguay followed suit. Same-sex marriage is also legal in Mexico City, and several other countries—including Costa Rica, Ecuador, Puerto Rico, and Colombia—have enacted anti-discrimination laws that grant rights related to the recognition of civil union and adoption.

"The Supreme Court's decision reflects a growing desire across America to secure the legal equality for LGBT individuals," said Carmen Barroso, IPPF/WHR Regional Director. "Despite opposition, we continue to win advancements in sexual rights throughout our region. Today’s Supreme Court ruling is another important step forward and brings long overdue justice to a community that continues to face abject discrimination and human rights violations."

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