The Wall Street Journal reports:
WASHINGTON—A divided Supreme Court handed a victory to supporters of gay marriage, striking down a 1996 federal law that denied federal benefits to lawfully wedded same-sex couples.
The court avoided a ruling on the merits in a second gay-marriage case involving California's Proposition 8 ban on gay marriage, saying that both the Supreme Court and a federal appeals court lacked jurisdiction to hear the case. That means a federal district court's ruling striking down Proposition 8 stands, which could clear the way for same-sex marriage to resume in California.
Collectively, the rulings represent a history-making advance for the cause of gay marriage. The Supreme Court for the first time said the federal government couldn't discriminate against same-sex couples if their marriage is recognized by a state, and in the California case it declined to reverse the district court ruling recognizing a right to gay marriage.
Justice Anthony Kennedy announced the court's 5-4 decision in the Defense of Marriage Act case. Justice Kennedy was joined by the four members of the court's liberal wing—Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Stephen Breyer, Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan—while Chief Justice John Roberts dissented, joined by Justices Antonin Scalia,Clarence Thomas and Samuel Alito.