In a landmark decision released Wednesday, the Supreme Court affirmed what a majority of Americans already believe:

A marriage between two men or two women is no less legitimate than a marriage between and man and a woman.

In striking down the mean-spirited Defense of Marriage Act, the court ruled the law an unconstitutional attack on "the equal liberty of persons that is protected by the Fifth Amendment."

Established in 1996, the law, known as DOMA, denied recognition of same-sex marriages performed in states that allowed them, making those couples ineligible for the same federal benefits enjoyed by couples in traditional unions.

"DOMA instructs all federal officials, and indeed all persons with whom same-sex couples interact, including their own children, that their marriage is less worthy than the marriages of others," Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote for the majority.

The damning ruling continued: "... DOMA's history of enactment and its own text demonstrate that interference with the equal dignity of same-sex marriages, conferred by the States in the exercise of their sovereign power, was more than an incidental effect of the federal statute. It was its essence."

The law was a pre-emptive strike by Congress as it appeared Hawaii might become the first state to recognize same-sex marriages.

It was a bully tactic, pure and simple, but one that failed to stem the march toward equality.


Advertisement

Since 1996, 12 states and the District of Columbia have approved same-sex marriage, either through legislative action, court rulings or voter referendums.

In another victory for gay and lesbian rights, the high court Wednesday also paved the way for California to resume same-sex marriages. They were legal for a time, until a voter initiative banned them.

While the ruling did not tackle broader questions about the legality of same-sex marriage bans in other states, it let stand a lower court's decision that California's initiative was unconstitutional.

The DOMA decision, however, was a clear victory and a reflection of the country's changing attitudes.

The law was simply indefensible. In fact, the Justice Department didn't even try, having already decided it was unconstitutional.

Instead, the defense of DOMA in the Supreme Court case was led by House Republicans.

On this issue, they are in the minority.

A recent CNN/ORC poll found 55 percent of Americans support same-sex marriage, up from 44 percent in 2009. Other polls show similar majorities.

Compare that to 1996, the year DOMA was approved, when just 27 percent of Americans felt the same way, according to a USA Today/Gallup poll.

Most Americans these days understand this issue isn't about special rights, it's about equal rights.

Unfortunately, some still don't get it -- some even going so far as to say they support "civil unions" that grant same-sex couples the same benefits of heterosexual married couples, but are opposed to defining those unions as "marriages."

They apparently feel the label is theirs to grant or deny.

These people seem to feel their heterosexual marriages are threatened, can be lessened somehow, if the "definition" includes same-sex couples.

If that's the case, they should focus more on their own relationships and less on others'.