90.9 WBUR - Boston's NPR news station
Top Stories:
PLEDGE NOW
Here and Now with Robin Young and Jeremy Hobson
Public radio's live
midday news program
With sponsorship from
Mathworks - Accelerating the pace of engineering and science
Accelerating the pace
of engineering and science
Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Justices Indicate DOMA Could Be Struck Down

A group from Alabama prays in front of the Supreme Court in Washington, Wednesday, March 27, 2013, before the court's hearing on the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA). (AP/Carolyn Kaster)

A group from Alabama prays in front of the Supreme Court in Washington, Wednesday, March 27, 2013, before the court’s hearing on the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA). (AP/Carolyn Kaster)

The Supreme Court is indicating it could strike down the law that prevents legally married gay couples from receiving a range of federal benefits that go to married people.

Justice Anthony Kennedy, often the decisive vote in close cases, joined the four more liberal justices Wednesday in raising questions about the provision of the federal Defense of Marriage Act that is being challenged at the Supreme Court.

Kennedy said the law appears to intrude on the power of states that have chosen to recognize same-sex marriages. Other justices said the law creates what Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg called two classes of marriage, full and “skim-milk marriage.”

The federal law affects a range of benefits available to married couples, including tax breaks, survivor benefits and health insurance for spouses of federal employees.

It still is possible the court could dismiss the case for procedural reasons, though that prospect seemed less likely than it did in Tuesday’s argument over gay marriage in California.

The motivation behind the 1996 federal law, passed by large majorities in Congress and signed by President Bill Clinton, was questioned repeatedly by Justice Elena Kagan.

She read from a House of Representatives report explaining that the reason for the law was “to express moral disapproval of homosexuality.” The quote produced an audible reaction in the courtroom.

Paul Clement, representing the House Republican leadership in defending the law, said the more relevant question is whether Congress had “any rational basis for the statute.” He supplied one, the federal government’s interest in treating same-sex couples the same no matter where they live.

Clement said the government does not want military families “to resist transfer from West Point to Fort Sill because they’re going to lose their benefits.” The U.S. Military Academy at West Point is in New York, where same-sex marriage is legal, and Fort Sill is in Oklahoma, where gay marriages are not legal.

Guest:


Please follow our community rules when engaging in comment discussion on this site.
Robin and Jeremy

Robin Young and Jeremy Hobson host Here & Now, a live two-hour production of NPR and WBUR Boston.

March 31 73 Comments

Is The News Losing Its Appeal?

Young people are spending less time consuming news than previous generations, according to Pew Research Center.

March 31 Comment

U.S. Tennis Association CEO Hopes To Spread Love Of Game

Katrina Adams, the association's youngest and first black CEO, talks about her goals to draw people – old and young – into the game.

March 30 38 Comments

Sen. Warren: Not Interested In Reid's Job And Still Not Running For President

Elizabeth Warren insists she has no plans to jump into the 2016 race. She joins us to discuss her current political goals.

March 30 8 Comments

Unveiling The Pain Of Secondary Trauma Victims

Mac McClelland was diagnosed with PTSD after witnessing another woman's horror at being brutally assaulted. She joins us to explain why she didn't believe the diagnosis, at first.