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Supreme Court: Same-Sex Couples May Receive Federal Benefits

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WASHINGTON (CNN) — In a dramatic slap at federal authority, a divided Supreme Court has struck down a key part of congressional law that denies to legally married same-sex couples the same benefits provided to heterosexual spouses.

The Defense of Marriage Act defines marriage as only between a man and a woman.

The vote Wednesday was 5-4.

“Although Congress has great authority to design laws to fit its own conception of sound national policy, it cannot deny the liberty protected by the Due Process Clause of the Fifth Amendment,” said Justice Anthony Kennedy.

Read the Supreme Court Ruling Here

The case examined whether the federal government can deny tax, health and pension benefits to same-sex couples in states where they can legally marry. At issue was whether DOMA violates equal protection guarantees in the Fifth Amendment’s due process clause as applied to same-sex couples legally married under the laws of their states.

The key plaintiff is Edith “Edie” Windsor, 84, who married fellow New York resident Thea Spyer in Canada in 2007, about 40 years into their relationship. By the time Spyer died in 2009, New York courts recognized same-sex marriages performed in other countries. But the federal government didn’t recognize Windsor’s same-sex marriage, and she was forced to assume an estate tax bill much larger than those that other married couples would have to pay. So, Windsor sued the federal government.

A federal appeals court last year ruled in Windsor’s favor, saying DOMA violated the Constitution’s equal protection clause.

The case is U.S. v. Windsor (12-307).

Court Dismisses California Prop 8 Appeal: The Supreme Court has dismissed a closely-watched appeal over same-sex marriage on jurisdictional grounds, ruling Wednesday private parties do not have “standing” to defend California’s voter-approved ballot measure barring gay and lesbians couples from state-sanctioned wedlock. The ruling permits same-sex couples in California to legally marry.

Celebration In St. Louis

There were celebrations in St. Louis after two rulings by the nation’s highest court involving gay marriage.

The court building in downtown St. Louis is flying the gay flag.

While folks are joyful and hopeful by the supreme courts two rulings, one ruling permits gay marriage once again in California, the other determined the federal Defense of Marriage Act was illegal.

The act defined marriage as only between a man and a woman.

Two battles won by the LGBT community but the war is far from over.

For supporters and opponents of same sex marriage and gay rights in Missouri and Illinois, gay activists believe the rulings will give them momentum in obtaining equal protection under the law in Missouri in the future.

They say it’s not if, it’s when.

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