In a victory for same-sex couples, the Supreme Court Wednesday voted 5-4 to strike down Section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act, which had defined marriage as only between a man and a woman for the purposes of federal law.
That law had major financial implications for same-sex couples, who were prohibited from filing joint federal tax returns, receiving a deceased partner's Social Security benefits, or, in the case of federal employees, receiving partner employee benefits.
In the majority opinion, the justices cited the Fifth Amendment's equal protection clause as the reason for the decision.
"DOMA is unconstitutional as a deprivation of the equal liberty of persons that is protected by the Fifth Amendment," Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote. "By seeking to injure the very class New York seeks to protect, DOMA violates basic due process and equal protection principles applicable to the Federal Government."