NEWBURYPORT — The city’s Commission for Diversity and Tolerance heralded the Supreme Court’s decision to declare unconstitutional the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) yesterday.
The controversial act denied federal benefits, including inheritance and Social Security benefits, to legally married couples of the same gender.
“It is an important day for civil rights, particularly in light of the Court’s recent disappointing rulings that diminished both an employer’s responsibility for workplace discrimination as well as the power of the Voters’ Rights Act to prevent barriers to voting for certain minorities,” the group said in a written statement.
“The Commission celebrates this incredible milestone together with Newburyport’s LGBT community and all of its supporters,” said Rabbi Avi Poupko, chairman of the CDT.
The justices yesterday issued a 5-4 ruling that wiped away part of a federal anti-gay marriage law. The Supreme Court also ruled California’s Proposition 8, a gay marriage ban, as unconstitutional. It is expected that California will resume same-sex weddings in about a month.
Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote the majority opinion on DOMA, joined by the court’s liberal justices.
“Under DOMA, same-sex married couples have their lives burdened, by reason of government decree, in visible and public ways,” Kennedy said. “DOMA’s principal effect is to identify a subset of state-sanctioned marriages and make them unequal.”
David Mills said he felt a sense of relief yesterday after the Supreme Court struck down a provision of a federal law denying federal benefits to married gay couples.
The court also cleared the way for the resumption of same-sex marriage in California in a separate decision.
As an openly gay man, Mills, 70, a Danvers selectman, said he was unsure what the results would be leading up to the decision yesterday. He went to Washington, D.C., in March to watch several of the hearings on both decisions.