Removing The Veil: Understanding The History Behind DOMA And Prop 8

By Laurel Dearborn


The Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) was established in 1996 under President Clinton and mandated that the federal benefits of legal marriage apply only to unions between a man and a woman, prohibiting same-sex couples from being able to file together on taxes, create joint wills and make medical decisions for one another.

DOMA entered the Supreme Court to be evaluated on the basis of its constitutionality after Edith Windsor sued the United States over the law. Windsor was required to pay high estate taxes after her spouse’s death because their marriage was not recognized by the federal government, and brought the case to court as an example of DOMA’s discriminatory practices toward same-sex couples.

As of this morning, DOMA is no longer valid as the Supreme Court stated that it was unconstitutional and according to the Los Angeles Times violated “the right of liberty” guaranteed by the Fifth Amendment.

Prop 8

Marriage between same-sex couples was legal once before in California prior to this morning. In March of 2008, the California Supreme Court gave the green light for gay marriage. When protests arose, however, signatures were gathered to propose Prop 8, a measure that would make gay marriage illegal in California. The measure passed in 2008 with 52 percent in favor of the Proposition.

Gay marriage was legalized once more in California this morning as Prop 8 was ruled out of the Supreme Court’s jurisdiction, reverting the decision to that made in California’s Ninth Circuit of Appeals, which deemed Prop 8 unconstitutional under California’s state constitution.

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