WASHINGTON -- The Defense of Marriage Act, the law barring the federal government from recognizing same-sex marriages legalized by the states, is unconstitutional, the Supreme Court ruled Wednesday by a 5-4 vote.

"The federal statute is invalid, for no legitimate purpose overcomes the purpose and effect to disparage and to injure those whom the State, by its marriage laws, sought to protect in personhood and dignity,” Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote in the majority opinion. "By seeking to displace this protection and treating those persons as living in marriages less respected than others, the federal statute is in violation of the Fifth Amendment."

Justice Kennedy delivered the court’s opinion, and was joined by Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Stephen Breyer, Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan. Chief Justice John Roberts and Justices Antonin Scalia and Samuel Alito all filed dissenting opinions. Justice Clarence Thomas joined Scalia's dissent in whole and parts of Alito's opinion.

As Kennedy read the majority opinion from the bench, cries were heard in the courtroom when the justice delivered the verdict that DOMA violates the Fifth Amendment. A number of same-sex couples sitting in the audience looked up at the ceiling, while others wiped away tears.

DOMA, signed by President Bill Clinton in 1996, prevented same-sex couples whose marriages were recognized by their home state from receiving the hundreds of benefits available to other married couples under federal law. During the Obama administration, the Justice Department initially defended DOMA in court despite the administration’s desire to repeal it. But the Justice Department changed course in early 2011, finding that the law was unconstitutional and declining to defend it any longer. (The majority opinion slightly criticized that decision on Wednesday, writing that the "failure to defend the constitutionality of an Act of Congress based on a constitutional theory not yet established in judicial decisions" had "created a procedural dilemma.") House Republicans have since spent hundreds of thousands of dollars taking over that defense.

Plaintiff Edie Windsor, 84, sued the federal government after the Internal Revenue Service denied her refund request for the $363,000 in federal estate taxes she paid after her spouse, Thea Spyer, died in 2009.

During the March oral arguments in United States v. Windsor, a majority of the court seemed to express doubts about the constitutionality of DOMA. Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg said that supporters of the law seemed to want "two types of marriage," likening same-sex unions to the "skim milk" version of marriage.

On Wednesday, the court’s majority ruled that the power of the individual state in defining marriage "is of central relevance" and the decision to grant same-sex couples the right to marry is "of immense import." The state, the court ruled, "used its historic and essential authority to define the marital relation in this way, its role and its power in making the decision enhanced the recognition, dignity, and protection of the class in their own community." The court held that DOMA "because of its reach and extent, departs from this history and tradition of reliance on state law to define marriage."

DOMA’s "demonstrated purpose is to ensure that if any State decides to recognize same-sex marriages, those unions will be treated as second-class marriages for purposes of federal law," the majority ruled. "This raises a most serious question under the Constitution’s Fifth Amendment." DOMA, the majority said, "humiliates tens of thousands of children now being raised by same-sex couples" and "makes it even more difficult for the children to understand the integrity and closeness of their own family and its concord with other families in their community and in their daily lives."

Roberts, in his written dissent, said he "would not tar the political branches with the brush of bigotry" without "more convincing evidence that the Act’s principal purpose was to codify malice." He said he believed Congress acted constitutionally when it passed legislation to "retain the definition of marriage that, at that point, had been adopted by every State in our Nation, and every nation in the world."

Scalia delivered his dissent from the bench. "In the majority’s telling," he said, "this story is black-and-white: hate your neighbor or come along with us. The truth is more complicated. It is hard to admit that one’s political opponents are not monsters, especially in a struggle like this one, and the challenge in the end proves more than today’s Court can handle. Too bad."

Some, Scalia said, "will rejoice in today’s decision, and some will despair at it, that is the nature of a controversy that matters so much to so many. But the Court has cheated both sides, robbing the winners of an honest victory, and the losers of the peace that comes from a fair defeat. We owed both of them better."

In his written dissent, Scalia declared that the Constitution "neither requires nor forbids our society to approve of same-sex marriage, much as it neither requires nor forbids us to approve of no-fault divorce, polygamy, or the consumption of alcohol." The majority’s opinion, he wrote, declares "open season on any law that (in the opinion of the law’s opponents and any panel of like-minded federal judges) can be characterized as mean-spirited."

One of the same-sex couples whose eyes had glistened with tears just moments before chuckled to themselves as Scalia spoke, rolling their eyes when he noted that the majority had characterized DOMA supporters as "unhinged members of a wild-eyed lynch mob."

But Scalia argued the majority's decision "aggrandizes" the Supreme Court for little other purpose than "to buy a stolen moment in the spotlight."

After concluding his dissent, Scalia prepared to deliver the verdict in Sekhar v. United States, a comparatively obscure case questioning whether an attorney's recommendation can be the subject of an extortion attempt under the federal Hobbs Act.

"I'm sorry about that, but this is short," he joked.

The room erupted in laughter, and the court moved on to its next case.

Shortly after DOMA was struck down, President Barack Obama released a statement celebrating the decision. "This was discrimination enshrined in law. It treated loving, committed gay and lesbian couples as a separate and lesser class of people. The Supreme Court has righted that wrong, and our country is better off for it," he said.

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  • WASHINGTON, DC - JUNE 26: Married couple Michael Knaapen (L) amd John Becker (2nd L) react after hearing the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) is unconstitutional at the Supreme Court, June 26, 2013 in Washington, DC. The high court ruled to strike down DOMA and determined the California's proposition 8 ban on same-sex marriage was not properly before them, declining to overturn the lower court's striking down of the law. (Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images)

  • WASHINGTON, DC - JUNE 26: Married couple Michael Knaapen (L) amd John Becker (2nd L) kiss after hearing the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) is unconstitutional at the Supreme Court, June 26, 2013 in Washington, DC. The high court ruled to strike down DOMA and determined the California's proposition 8 ban on same-sex marriage was not properly before them, declining to overturn the lower court's striking down of the law. (Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images)

  • Michael Knaapen, left, and his husband John Becker, right, embrace outside the Supreme Court in Washington, Wednesday, June 26, 2013, after the court cleared the way for same-sex marriage in California by holding that defenders of California's gay marriage ban did not have the right to appeal lower court rulings striking down the ban. (AP Photo/Charles Dharapak)

  • NEW YORK, NY - JUNE 26: Richelle Spanover (2nd R) wipes her eye after after the Supreme Court ruled key portions of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) unconstitutional, at the Stonewall Inn on June 26, 2013 in the West Village neighborhood of New York City. The Stonewall Inn became historically important in the Lesbian-Gay-Bigender-Transgender community after playing a key role during the Gay-rights movement of the 1960s and 1970s. The high court ruled to strike down DOMA and determined the California's proposition 8 ban on same-sex marriage was not properly before them, declining to overturn the lower court's striking down of the law. (Photo by Andrew Burton/Getty Images)

  • NEW YORK, NY - JUNE 26: Virginia Sin (L) and Gretchen Menter smile after the Supreme Court ruled key portions of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) unconstitutional, at the Stonewall Inn on June 26, 2013 in the West Village neighborhood of New York City. The Stonewall Inn became historically important in the Lesbian-Gay-Bigender-Transgender community after playing a key role during the Gay-rights movement of the 1960s and 1970s. The high court ruled to strike down DOMA and determined the California's proposition 8 ban on same-sex marriage was not properly before them, declining to overturn the lower court's striking down of the law. (Photo by Andrew Burton/Getty Images)

  • Edith Windsor, center, accompanied by her attorney Roberta Kaplan, right, is greeted by Orie Urami, left, as she arrives at the LGBT Center for a news conference, in New York, Wednesday, June 26, 2013. In a major victory for gay rights, the Supreme Court on Wednesday struck down a provision of a federal law denying federal benefits to married gay couples and cleared the way for the resumption of same-sex marriage in California. (AP Photo/Richard Drew) <em><strong>CORRECTION:</strong> This slide initially referred to Edith Windsor's attorney as Robert Kaplan. Her name is Roberta Kaplan.</em>

  • David Boies, an attorney arguing in support of gay marriage, speaks to the media after the U.S. Supreme Court overturned the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) and declined to rule on the California law Proposition 8 in Washington, D.C., U.S. on Wednesday, June 26, 2013. A divided U.S. Supreme Court gave a landmark victory to the gay-rights movement, striking down a federal law that denies benefits to same-sex married couples and clearing the way for weddings to resume in California. Photographer: Joshua Roberts/Bloomberg via Getty Images

  • Chris Roe (L) and Roby Chavez (R) celebrate while holding their soon-to-be adopted children as the US Supreme Court ruling is announced on June 26, 2013. The US Supreme Court struck down The Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) today, and declared that same-sex couples who are legally married deserve equal rights to the benefits under federal law that go to all other married couples. In another ruling, the Supreme Court cleared the way for same-sex marriages to resume in California as the justices, in a prcedural ruling, turned away the defenders of Proposition 8. AFP PHOTO/Josh Edelson (Photo credit should read Josh Edelson/AFP/Getty Images)

  • Edith Windsor arrives at the LGBT Center for a news conference, in New York, Wednesday, June 26, 2013. In a major victory for gay rights, the Supreme Court on Wednesday struck down a provision of a federal law denying federal benefits to married gay couples and cleared the way for the resumption of same-sex marriage in California. (AP Photo/Richard Drew)

  • Edith Windsor reacts during a news conference at the LGBT Center, in New York, Wednesday, June 26, 2013. In a major victory for gay rights, the Supreme Court on Wednesday struck down a provision of a federal law denying federal benefits to married gay couples and cleared the way for the resumption of same-sex marriage in California. (AP Photo/Richard Drew)

  • Kris Perry, second from right, kisses her partner Sandy Stier outside the Supreme Court in Washington, Wednesday, June 26, 2013, after the court cleared the way for the resumption of same-sex marriage in their home state of California. From left are, plaintiffs Jeff Zarrillo, and his partner Paul Katami, attorney David Boies, plaintiffs Sandy Stier and Kris Perry, and attorney Ted Boutrous. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

  • John Lewis, left, and Stuart Gaffney embrace outside San Francisco's City Hall shortly before the U.S. Supreme Court ruling cleared the way for same-sex marriage in California on Wednesday, June 26, 2013. The justices issued two 5-4 rulings in their final session of the term. One decision wiped away part of a federal anti-gay marriage law that has kept legally married same-sex couples from receiving tax, health and pension benefits. The other was a technical legal ruling that said nothing at all about same-sex marriage, but left in place a trial court's declaration that California's Proposition 8 is unconstitutional. (AP Photo/Noah Berger)

  • Sandy Stier, center, and her partner Kris Perry, right, plaintiffs in Hollingsworth v. Perry, the California Proposition 8 case, meets with reporters outside the Supreme Court in Washington, Wednesday, June 26, 2013, after the court's 5-4 decision that cleared the way for the resumption of same-sex marriage in their home state of California. Gesturing at far left is fellow plaintiff Jeff Zarrillo. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

  • WASHINGTON, DC - JUNE 26: American University students Sharon Burk (L) and Mollie Wagoner (R) embrace after hearing that the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) is unconstitutional at the Supreme Court, June 26, 2013 in Washington, DC. The high court ruled to strike down DOMA and determined the California's proposition 8 ban on same-sex marriage was not properly before them, declining to overturn the lower court's striking down of the law. (Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images)

  • John Lewis, left, and his partner Stuart Gaffney embrace as they react next to Andrea Shorter after the Supreme Court decision at the office of San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee at City Hall in San Francisco, Wednesday, June 26, 2013. The Supreme Court on Wednesday struck down a provision of a U.S. law denying federal benefits to married gay couples and cleared the way for the resumption of same-sex marriage in the state of California. The justices issued two 5-4 rulings in their final session of the term. One decision wiped away part of a federal anti-gay marriage law that has kept legally married same-sex couples from receiving tax, health and pension benefits. The other was a technical legal ruling that said nothing at all about same-sex marriage, but left in place a trial court's declaration that California's Proposition 8 is unconstitutional. (AP Photo/Jeff Chiu)

  • SAN FRANCISCO, CA - JUNE 26: Same-sex couple Jewelle Gomez (R) and Diane Sabin react upon hearing the U.S. Supreme Court's rulings on gay marriage in City Hall June 26, 2013 in San Francisco, California. The high court struck down the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) and ruled that supporters of California's ban on gay marriage, Proposition 8, could not defend it before the Supreme Court. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

  • Gay rights activist Bryce Romero, who works for the Human Rights Campaign, offers an enthusiastic high-five to visitors getting in line to enter the Supreme Court on a day when justices are expected to hand down major rulings on two gay marriage cases that could impact same-sex couples across the country, in Washington, Wednesday, June 26, 2013. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

  • Gay rights activist Bryce Romero, who works for the Human Rights Campaign, offers an enthusiastic high-five to visitors getting in line to enter the Supreme Court on a day when justices are expected to hand down major rulings on two gay marriage cases that could impact same-sex couples across the country, in Washington, Wednesday, June 26, 2013. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

  • WASHINGTON, DC - JUNE 26: Attorney David Boise (C) speaks while flanked by plantiff couples Paul Katami, (L), Jeff Zarillo (2nd L), Sandy Steier (2nd R) and Kris Perry (R) after the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that part of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) is unconstitutional at the Supreme Court, June 26, 2013 in Washington, DC. The high court ruled to strike down DOMA and determined the California's proposition 8 ban on same-sex marriage was not properly before them, declining to overturn the lower court's striking down of the law. (Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images)

  • Plaintiffs in Hollingsworth v. Perry, the California Proposition 8 case, react on steps of the Supreme Court in Washington, Wednesday, June 26, 2013, after justices cleared the way for the resumption of same-sex marriage in California. From left are, Jeff Zarrillo, and his partner Paul Katami, attorney David Boies, and Sandy Stier and her partner Kris Perry. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

  • Michael Knaapen (L) and his husband John Becker react outside the US Supreme Court in Washington DC on June 26, 2013. The US Supreme Court on Wednesday struck down a controversial federal law that defines marriage as a union between a man and a woman, in a major victory for supporters of same-sex marriage.The Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) had denied married gay and lesbian couples in the United States the same rights and benefits that straight couples have long taken for granted. AFP PHOTO / MLADEN ANTONOV (Photo credit should read MLADEN ANTONOV/AFP/Getty Images)

  • WASHINGTON, DC - JUNE 26: Chase Hardin hugs friend Kai Neander on the steps of the Supreme Court after favorable rulings were issued in same sex marriage cases June 26, 2013 in Washington, DC. The high court ruled to strike down DOMA and determined the California's proposition 8 ban on same-sex marriage was not properly before them, declining to overturn the lower court's striking down of the law. (Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images)

  • WASHINGTON, DC - JUNE 26: Gay rights supporter Jay Norris, of New York City, holds a U.S. flag outside the U.S. Supreme Court building on June 26, 2013 in Washington, DC. The high court is expected to rule on the DOMA and Prop 8 gay marriage cases. (Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images)

  • WEST HOLLYWOOD, CA - JUNE 26: Martha Acevedo, 25, celebrates the Supreme Court ruling after a watch party at Equality California, a non-profit civil rights organization that advocates for the rights of LGBT people in California, on June 26, 2013 in West Hollywood, California. The high court struck down the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) and ruled that supporters of California's ban on gay marriage, Proposition 8, could not defend it before the Supreme Court. (Photo by Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images)

  • Ellen Pontac, left, and her wife Shelly Bailes, celebrate in Sacramento, Calif., after the U.S. Supreme Court's ruling on gay marriage in California, Wednesday, June 26, 2013. The 5-4 decision wiped away part of a federal anti-gay marriage law that has kept legally married same-sex couples, like Pontac and Bailes, from receiving tax, health and pension benefits. (AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli) will now have the same (AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli)

  • Attendees at a watch party in Miami celebrate after the U.S. Supreme Court's ruling on gay marriage in California Wednesday, June 26, 2013. The justices issued two 5-4 rulings in their final session of the term. One decision wiped away part of a federal anti-gay marriage law that has kept legally married same-sex couples from receiving tax, health and pension benefits. The other was a technical legal ruling that said nothing at all about same-sex marriage, but left in place a trial court's declaration that California's Proposition 8 is unconstitutional. (AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee)

  • Julia Tate, left, kisses her wife, Lisa McMillin, as they read results of Supreme Court decisions regarding gay rights on Wednesday, June 26, 2013, in Nashville, Tenn. The justices issued two 5-4 rulings in their final session of the term. One decision wiped away part of a federal anti-gay marriage law that has kept legally married same-sex couples from receiving tax, health and pension benefits. The other was a technical legal ruling that said nothing at all about same-sex marriage, but left in place a trial court's declaration that California's Proposition 8 is unconstitutional. McMillin holds the couple's son, Luke. (AP Photo/Mark Humphrey)

  • Juan Talavera, right, kisses his partner Jeff Ronci after the announcement of the U.S. Supreme Court's ruling at a watch party in Miami, Wednesday, June 26, 2013. The justices issued two 5-4 rulings in their final session of the term. One decision wiped away part of a federal anti-gay marriage law that has kept legally married same-sex couples from receiving tax, health and pension benefits. The other was a technical legal ruling that said nothing at all about same-sex marriage, but left in place a trial court's declaration that California's Proposition 8 is unconstitutional. (AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee)

  • Renata Moreira, right, and partner Lori Bilella cheer after the U.S. Supreme Court's ruling on gay marriage in California, at San Francisco's City Hall on Wednesday, June 26, 2013. The justices issued two 5-4 rulings in their final session of the term. One decision wiped away part of a federal anti-gay marriage law that has kept legally married same-sex couples from receiving tax, health and pension benefits. The other was a technical legal ruling that said nothing at all about same-sex marriage, but left in place a trial court's declaration that California's Proposition 8 is unconstitutional. The couple plans to marry. (AP Photo/Noah Berger)

  • WEST HOLLYWOOD, CA - JUNE 26: Erica Ikeda (C), 26, and Jessica Parral (R), 24, react to the Supreme Court ruling at a watch party at Equality California, a non-profit civil rights organization that advocates for the rights of LGBT people in California, on June 26, 2013 in West Hollywood, California. The high court struck down the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) and ruled that supporters of California's ban on gay marriage, Proposition 8, could not defend it before the Supreme Court. (Photo by Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images)

  • WEST HOLLYWOOD, CA - JUNE 26: Brandon Benoit (C) hugs Martha Acevedo (L), 25, and Briana Castaneda, 23, as they celebrate the Supreme Court ruling at a watch party at Equality California, a non-profit civil rights organization that advocates for the rights of LGBT people in California, on June 26, 2013 in West Hollywood, California. The high court struck down the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) and ruled that supporters of California's ban on gay marriage, Proposition 8, could not defend it before the Supreme Court. (Photo by Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images)

  • WEST HOLLYWOOD, CA - JUNE 26: People celebrate in the street after the Supreme Court ruling at a watch party at Equality California, a non-profit civil rights organization that advocates for the rights of LGBT people in California, on June 26, 2013 in West Hollywood, California. The high court struck down the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) and ruled that supporters of California's ban on gay marriage, Proposition 8, could not defend it before the Supreme Court. (Photo by Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images)

  • SAN FRANCISCO, CA - JUNE 26: Supporters of same-sex marriage cheer as they learn results of the U.S. Supreme Court's rulings on gay marriage in City Hall June 26, 2013 in San Francisco, United States. The high court struck down the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) and ruled that supporters of California's ban on gay marriage, Proposition 8, could not defend it before the Supreme Court. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

  • SAN FRANCISCO, CA - JUNE 26: Same-sex couple Sue Rochman (L) and Robin Romdalvik celebrate upon hearing the U.S. Supreme Court's rulings on gay marriage in City Hall June 26, 2013 in San Francisco, United States. The high court struck down the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) and ruled that supporters of California's ban on gay marriage, Proposition 8, could not defend it before the Supreme Court. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

  • Gay rights activists reacts outside the US Supreme Court building in Washington DC on June 26, 2013, after the court ruling on California's Proposition 8, the controversial ballot initiative that defines marriage as between a man and a woman. AFP PHOTO / MLADEN ANTONOV (Photo credit should read MLADEN ANTONOV/AFP/Getty Images)

  • WEST HOLLYWOOD, CA - JUNE 26: Erica Ikeda (C), 26, and her friends react to the Supreme Court ruling at a watch party at Equality California, a non-profit civil rights organization that advocates for the rights of LGBT people in California, on June 26, 2013 in West Hollywood, California. The high court struck down the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) and ruled that supporters of California's ban on gay marriage, Proposition 8, could not defend it before the Supreme Court. (Photo by Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images)

  • John Lewis, left, gets a kiss from his partner Stuart Gaffney as they embrace after the Supreme Court cleared the way for same-sex marriage in California at the office of San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee at City Hall in San Francisco, Wednesday, June 26, 2013. The justices issued two 5-4 rulings in their final session of the term. One decision wiped away part of a federal anti-gay marriage law that has kept legally married same-sex couples from receiving tax, health and pension benefits. The other was a technical legal ruling that said nothing at all about same-sex marriage, but left in place a trial court's declaration that California's Proposition 8 is unconstitutional. (AP Photo/Jeff Chiu)

  • WASHINGTON, DC - JUNE 26: Plaintiff couple Sandy Stier (C) and Kris Perry (L) arrive for their Proposition 8 case before the U.S. Supreme Court on June 26, 2013 in Washington, DC. The high court is expected to rule on the DOMA and Prop 8 gay marriage cases. (Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images)

  • WASHINGTON, DC - JUNE 26: Gay rights supporters Brian Sprague (L) and Charlie Ferrusi, from Albany, New York, hold a Human Rights flag outside U.S. Supreme Court building on June 26, 2013 in Washington, DC. The high court is expected to rule on the DOMA and Prop 8 gay marriage cases. (Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images)

  • WASHINGTON, DC - JUNE 26: Gay rights supporter Vin Testa waves a rainbow flag outside the U.S. Supreme Court building on June 26, 2013 in Washington, DC. The high court is expected to rule on the DOMA and Prop 8 gay marriage cases. (Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images)

  • Gay rights activists gather outside the US Supreme Court building in Washington, DC on June 26, 2013. The US Supreme Court on Wednesday struck down a controversial federal law that defines marriage as a union between a man and a woman, in a major victory for supporters of same-sex marriage.The Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) had denied married gay and lesbian couples in the United States the same rights and benefits that straight couples have long taken for granted. AFP PHOTO / MLADEN ANTONOV (Photo credit should read MLADEN ANTONOV/AFP/Getty Images)

  • American University students Sharon Burk, left, and Molly Wagner, embrace outside the Supreme Court in Washington, Wednesday, June 26, 2013, after the court cleared the way for same-sex marriage in California by holding that defenders of California's gay marriage ban did not have the right to appeal lower court rulings striking down the ban. (AP Photo/Charles Dharapak)

  • Arriving at the Supreme Court in Washington, Wednesday, June 26, 2013, on a final day for decisions in two gay marriage cases are plaintiffs in the California Proposition 8 case, from left, Paul Katami, his partner Jeff Zarrillo, and Sandy Stier and her partner Kris Perry. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

  • Michael Knaapen, left, and his husband John Becker, right, embrace outside the Supreme Court in Washington, Wednesday, June 26, 2013 after the court struck down a federal provision denying benefits to legally married gay couples. (AP Photo/Charles Dharapak)

  • American University students Sharon Burk, left, and Molly Wagner participate in a rally for rights for gay couples in front of the Supreme Court in Washington, Wednesday, June 26, 2013, after the court cleared the way for same-sex marriage in California by holding that defenders of California's gay marriage ban did not have the right to appeal lower court rulings striking down the ban. (AP Photo/Charles Dharapak)

  • Supporters of gay marriage embrace outside the Supreme Court in Washington, Wednesday, June 26, 2013, after the court cleared the way for same-sex marriage in California by holding that defenders of California's gay marriage ban did not have the right to appeal lower court rulings striking down the ban. (AP Photo/Charles Dharapak)

  • Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) spotted in the crowd during the SCOTUS decisions on June 26


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Some Catholic leaders are asking parishioners to consider the judgment of a higher power, not the nation's highest court.

Detroit Archbishop Allen H. Vigneron issued a statement criticizing the Supreme Court's decision in the DOMA and Prop 8 cases, saying that attempts to redefine marriage "hurt us all."

The well-being of our society, our nation, and our families is intimately linked to the institution of marriage. These decisions by the United States Supreme Court will make significantly more difficult our work of upholding the truth that marriage is a lifelong covenant between one man and one woman. Such decisions, made by any civic authority, do not serve the common good.

Catholics and millions of our fellow citizens will continue to make the case, respectfully yet vigorously, that marriage cannot be redefined, and that attempts to do so hurt us all.

Read more here.

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The Huffington Post's Lila Shapiro reports:

NEW YORK -- On Wednesday, the Stonewall Inn opened earlier than usual. At 10 a.m., the day the U.S. Supreme Court handed the gay rights movement a landmark victory, the historic bar was dimly lit, strung with rainbow flags, and filled with revelers toasting each other and pledging their determination to keep fighting.

Read the whole post here.

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The Washington National Cathedral rang bells at noon today to celebrate the Supreme Court rulings on the Defense Of Marriage Act and Prop 8.

Rev. Gary Hall, Dean of the Cathedral, released a statement soon after the rulings were announced:

“We are ringing our bells at the Cathedral to celebrate the extension of federal marriage equality to all the same-sex couples modeling God’s love in lifelong covenants," he said. "Our prayers for continued happiness are with them and with all couples who will be joined in matrimony in the years to come, whether at Washington National Cathedral or elsewhere."

Click here to hear the bells.

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Matthew Shepard's mom, Judy, said she wished her son had lived to see Wednesday's Supreme Court ruling striking down DOMA.

"I wish he'd been here to see it," she said. "This case warms my heart, to think that his dream is still coming true."

Click here to read more.

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HuffPost's Elise Foley reports:

Judy Rickard, who is 65, and Karin Bogliolo, who is 72, have been together for eight years, legal domestic partners for five and legally married for two. They're one of an estimated 28,500 binational same-sex couples who have been excluded from immigration benefits because of DOMA, which disallowed the federal government from recognizing their marriages. The ruling doesn't entirely fix the problem -- couples must be married rather than partners, and must travel to a state that allows same-sex marriage if they don't live in one -- but it's still a major victory for LGBT rights.

Read more about Rickard and Bogliolo and more couples helped by the DOMA decision here.

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Ted Allen, host of the hit Food Network show "Chopped" and his partner of 20 years, interior designer Barry Rice, were "over the moon" when they read on Wednesday morning that the court had ruled the Defense of Marriage Act unconstitutional.

Their day had come. They were getting married. Allen quickly announced their engagement on Twitter and Facebook. He said that the notices garnered the most enthusiastic response of any he'd ever posted; his Facebook status received 417 comments in the first 40 minutes.

Fellow food competition host Tom Colicchio sent his enthusiastic congratulations to the couple via Twitter.

Allen said that he and Rice would soon begin preparing for their wedding, likely a quiet affair in New York, but for now they're content to revel in the good news.

"I don't think that by any means our movement is finished, that our work is done, but this was an enormous hurdle," he said. "DOMA has been Chopped, sir."

-- Joe Satran

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The Gay Men's Chorus of Washington gathered outside the Supreme Court Tuesday, singing "Make Them Hear You" after the Supreme Court rulings. Watch a video of the performance below:

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California Attorney General Kamala Harris said Wednesday that gay and lesbian couples in the state should be able to marry immediately, rather than wait 25 days for the Supreme Court to finalize its ruling.

"The Court agreed with our argument that opponents of same-sex marriage lacked the legal standing required to bring the issue to the court. Same-sex marriages can legally resume in California as soon as the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals lifts its stay on the District Court Ruling," she said in a statement. "I ask that the Ninth Circuit lift this stay immediately, because gay and lesbian couples in California have waited long enough for their full civil rights."

--Luke Johnson

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Jon Carson, Executive Director of Organizing for Action, sent an email to supporters after Wednesday's ruling:

The Supreme Court's ruling this morning made history.

Now, the Defense of Marriage Act is unconstitutional -- meaning that all couples will be equal in the eyes of the federal law. And California's Prop 8 is dismissed, clearing the way for same-sex couples in California to marry once again.

For everyone who cares about equality, we've come so far in the past few years.

This is a call to action -- this is a fight we will win.

We will go state by state if we have to -- backed by a broad movement of millions who know a thing or two about making history. And OFA is going to be there every step of the way.

So if you believe that all people should be able to marry who they love, and if you're ready to fight for it -- today's a great day to say it.

...

This has been a long-fought battle, and there is a lot of fight still ahead of us. But I'd like to believe that some of the hardest fights are behind us.

We have history on our side, and we've never had more momentum than we do right now.

Thirteen states down, 37 to go.

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Organizing For Action posted the following video timeline on gay marriage:

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The Human Rights Campaign is taking over Facebook again after the Supreme Court ruled in favor of gay rights activists on Wednesday in a pair of decisions rendering two bans on sex-same marriages unconstitutional. The group is encouraging people to show their support of marriage equality by overlaying the red equality symbol over their profile pictures on the social network.

The HRC has created an app called Picture Equality that will put the red equal sign over your current profile picture. It's available for iOS and Android for free. You can also change your photo using a tool on their website.

The HRC's red equal sign became overwhelmingly popular on Facebook last March, when the Supreme Court was debating two cases on gay marriage. One involved the Defense Of Marriage Act, which banned federal recognition of gay marriages, and other California's Proposition 8, which banned same-sex marriages in the nation's largest state. Then, people were urged to make the original equal sign their Facebook profile pictures and wear red.

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New bills, recent polls and a move to put a referendum on the ballot suggest that days are numbered for Michigan's gay marriage ban. But a landmark case for gay rights may strike it down even sooner.

Expecting a decision from the U.S. Supreme Court, Michigan Democrats unveiled a package of bills in the state House this week that includes a joint resolution to amend the Michigan constitution to allow gay marriage.

Michigan Senate Democratic Majority Leader Gretchen Whitmer said in a statement that she supported Wednesday's SCOTUS decision.

“Today’s ruling is a proud step forward for our nation and affirms the belief that love, not politics, should be the only factor that determines whether any two Americans choose to get married," she said. "With today’s ruling from the Supreme Court, it’s clear that it’s time to move forward on that process to ensure that same-sex couples have the same rights, opportunities and protections as everyone else in our state.”

Another path exists to overturning Michigan's ban on gay marriage, and that route could be taken much sooner. Lesbian couple April DeBoer and Jayne Rowse are challenging the ban's constitutionality, with some hope that the U.S. Supreme Court's rulings on DOMA and Proposition 8 will pave the way for a decision striking down the state's ban by the end of summer.

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Bob Konst, 70, drove up to Washington from Miami Beach earlier this week to witness the DOMA/Prop 8 rulings and has waited outside the court house all week. He is disappointed with the Prop 8 ruling. "It's a good victory. But we're keeping the debate going and we should have ended it. More should have happened."

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Mother Jones' Kevin Drum reports:

In today's other decision on gay marriage, the Supreme Court declined to allow supporters of California's Proposition 8, which banned gay marriage, to appeal their case in federal court. (Opponents had sued and successfully overturned Prop 8.) Supporters could appeal the decision in California, the court said, because California recognized their standing, but they can't sue in federal court because they don't have standing according to federal rules. Since the California Supreme Court had ruled Prop 8 unconstitutional, this means the issue has been decided. Gay marriage is legal in California.

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While most of famously gay-friendly San Francisco reacted to Supreme Court's rulings on DOMA and Prop 8 with giddy excitement, some groups in the city are decided unhappy with the result.

The Archdioceses of San Francisco, whose recently appointed leader, Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone, has made headlines for his vocal opposition to gay rights -- even going as far as serving as the chair of the U.S. bishop's Subcommittee for the Promotion and Defense of Marriage, released a statement slamming the rulings and lamenting what he feels is a change in the traditional definition of marriage.

“Today is a tragic day for marriage and our nation. The Supreme Court has dealt a profound injustice to the American people by striking down in part the federal Defense of Marriage Act. The Court got it wrong. The federal government ought to respect the truth that marriage is the union of one man and one woman, even where states fail to do so. The preservation of liberty and justice requires that all laws, federal and state, respect the truth, including the truth about marriage. It is also unfortunate that the Court did not take the opportunity to uphold California’s Proposition 8 but instead decided not to rule on the matter. The common good of all, especially our children, depends upon a society that strives to uphold the truth of marriage. Now is the time to redouble our efforts in witness to this truth. These decisions are part of a public debate of great consequence. The future of marriage and the well-being of our society hang in the balance.

“Marriage is the only institution that brings together a man and a woman for life, providing any child who comes from their union with the secure foundation of a mother and a father.

“Our culture has taken for granted for far too long what human nature, experience, common sense, and God’s wise design all confirm: the difference between a man and a woman matters, and the difference between a mom and a dad matters. While the culture has failed in many ways to be marriage-strengthening, this is no reason to give up. Now is the time to strengthen marriage, not redefine it.

“When Jesus taught about the meaning of marriage –- the lifelong, exclusive union of husband and wife –- he pointed back to 'the beginning' of God’s creation of the human person as male and female (see Matthew 19). In the face of the customs and laws of his time, Jesus taught an unpopular truth that everyone could understand. The truth of marriage endures, and we will continue to boldly proclaim it with confidence and charity.

“Now that the Supreme Court has issued its decisions, with renewed purpose we call upon all of our leaders and the people of this good nation to stand steadfastly together in promoting and defending the unique meaning of marriage: one man, one woman, for life. We also ask for prayers as the Court’s decisions are reviewed and their implications further clarified.”

-- Aaron Sankin

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HuffPost's Jaweed Kaleem reports:

"Though the Supreme Court has declared the Defense of Marriage Act unconstitutional and invalidated California's gay marriage ban, marriage remains a complicated and contested issue among religious denominations.

Nationwide, supporters and opponents of same-sex marriage rights announced plans following the rulings Wednesday for prayer meetings and other gatherings, including an event supporting same-sex marriage on Wednesday in the Washington National Cathedral."

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ThinkProgress' Tara Culp-Ressler reports:

On Wednesday morning, the Supreme Court ruled that the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) is unconstitutional. While the decision doesn’t ensure marriage equality in states that have not already agreed to extend it to same-sex couples, Wednesday’s ruling does have important implications for the federal benefits that LGBT couples may receive under equal protection — including health care benefits.

As Wonkblog’s Sarah Kliff points out, the Court’s decision will allow same-sex couples will be eligible for greater tax subsidies under Obamacare because they will be considered dependents. Before DOMA was struck down, only heterosexual couples qualified for that tax break through their employer-sponsored health plans.

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HuffPost Comedy looks at the top 10 ways heterosexual marriage will be affected now that it's not being defended.

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In a statement released this morning, San Francisco Assessor-Recorder Carmen Chu said that her office is preparing to deal with hundreds of anticipated requests for marriage licenses from gay and lesbian couples as gay marriage resumes in California over the coming weeks.

On Wednesday, June 26, the United States Supreme Court declined to consider the appeal in the case of Dennis Hollingsworth, et al., Petitioners v. Kristin M. Perry, et al. This decision allows the District Court decision striking down Proposition 8 to stand, thereby allowing resumption of same-sex marriage in the State of California. Carmen Chu, San Francisco Assessor-Recorder said, “Today is a great day for Californians, and a great day for the LGBT community. We can all rejoice together that inequality will not be tolerated under the law and all couples who share a love for one another can marry without obstacle or discrimination."

The Office of the Assessor-Recorder will play a significant role in helping the thousands of couples who plan to visit City Hall in the coming months to be married. Assessor-Recorder Chu stated,"I am proud that our staff is fully prepared and are eager to officially record these marriage licenses. I want to ensure a smooth and efficient process for everyone during this remarkable moment in history."

Chu noted that, for newly married couples, there is no charge to record their marriage license; however there is a $14 fee if they wish to receive a copy of the document.

-- Aaron Sankin

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HuffPost Gay Voices reports:

Anti-gay groups were immediately up in arms after the Supreme Court struck down the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) as unconstitutional, claiming that this decision will change life in the United States for the worse and that "God's judgment" will be upon us.

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WASHINGTON — Attorney General Eric Holder today issued the following statement regarding the Supreme Court ruling on the Defense of Marriage Act:

Today’s historic decision in the case of United States v. Windsor, declaring Section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act unconstitutional, is an enormous triumph for equal protection under the law for all Americans. The Court’s ruling gives real meaning to the Constitution’s promise of equal protection to all members of our society, regardless of sexual orientation. This decision impacts a broad array of federal laws. At the president’s direction, the Department of Justice will work expeditiously with other Executive Branch agencies to implement the Court’s decision. Despite this momentous victory, our nation’s journey -– towards equality, opportunity, and justice for everyone in this country -– is far from over. Important, life-changing work remains before us. And, as we move forward in a manner consistent with the Court’s ruling, the Department of Justice is committed to continuing this work, and using every tool and legal authority available to us to combat discrimination and to safeguard the rights of all Americans.

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San Francisco Board of Supervisors President David Chiu invoked the memory of former San Francisco Supervisor Harvey Milk on Wednesday. Milk, the first openly gay elected official in the United States, was gunned down in his office 35 years ago a few short steps from the rotunda in San Francisco City Hall, where Chiu was speaking.

"At the top of these stairs, there sits a bust of Harvey Milk," Chiu told the cheering crowd of a few hundred gay marriage supporters. "Harvey told us you've got to have hope. Today that hope is triumphant."

-- Aaron Sankin

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San Francisco City Attorney Dennis Herrera said that his office will immediately move to enforce the order to let gay marriages recommence in California as soon as possible, even if anti-gay marriage groups or other counties in California file further legal challenges.

"Opponents are already saying they'll go back into court," Herrera said during a Wednesday morning event at San Francisco City Hall. "But we will fight; we already have the motions drafted."

-- Aaron Sankin

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Andrew Mertens, 24, from Bethesda, Maryland, and Zach Pinto, 21 from Massachusetts, were on their second date at the Court this morning.

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Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) praised the Supreme Court for declaring the Defense of Marriage Act unconstitutional on Wednesday, but said the fight for LGBT rights isn't over -- and his next push will be for passage of the Employment Non-Discrimination Act.

"Today is a great, historic day for equality in America," Reid said in a statement. “The idea that allowing two loving, committed people to marry would have a negative impact on anyone else, or on our nation as a whole, has always struck me as absurd."

Despite the good news, Reid said too many Americans still face discrimination at the workplace. Currently, it is legal in more than 30 states for an employer to fire someone based solely on that person's sexual orientation or gender identity. More than 50 senators have signed on to ENDA, a bill that would ban such discrimination, and Reid said he's ready to get moving on that.

"Every American deserves to be free from job discrimination," Reid said. "I will soon bring the Employment Non-Discrimination Act to the floor of the Senate for a vote.”

-- Jennifer Bendery

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HuffPost's Amanda Terkel reports:

The federal government's refusal to recognize legal same-sex marriages has imposed a "stigma," enshrined a "separate status" into law and "humiliates" a group of people -- and that is unconstitutional, concluded Justice Anthony Kennedy, writing for the majority of Supreme Court justices on Wednesday in their historic decision striking down the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act.

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San Francisco resident Nicholas Lemos, 45, stood on the steps of City Hall waving a rainbow flag and donning a Statue of Liberty costume.

"Today, the decisions of the Supreme Court upheld the destiny of Liberty," he said. "It's about time these laws are buried in the history books."

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-- Aaron Sankin

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California Gov. Jerry Brown (D) said that California counties must start issuing gay marriage licenses as soon as the 9th Circuit affirms that the stay of its ruling is lifted.

"After years of struggle, the U.S. Supreme Court today has made same-sex marriage a reality in California. In light of the decision, I have directed the California Department of Public Health to advise the state’s counties that they must begin issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples in California as soon as the Ninth Circuit confirms the stay is lifted," Brown said in a statement.

The Supreme Court dismissed the Proposition 8 case, ruling that the anti-gay marriage plaintiffs had no standing and instructing the 9th Circuit to dismiss their appeal.

Here is a letter from the California Department of Public Health to county clerks informing them of the Supreme Court decision.

-- Luke Johnson

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Edie Windsor, plaintiff in the DOMA case, spoke at a press conference about the Supreme Court's ruling on Wednesday.

Windsor thanked her legal team and others for taking on her case.

"We won, all the way," Windsor said.

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Earlier this morning, Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.) offered this statement in response to the Supreme Court's ruling on the Defense of Marriage Act:

"Marriage was created by the hand of God. No man, not even a Supreme Court, can undo what a holy God has instituted. For thousands of years of recorded human history, no society has defended the legal standard of marriage as anything other than between man and woman. Only since 2000 have we seen a redefinition of this foundational unit of society in various nations. Today, the U.S. Supreme Court decided to join the trend, despite the clear will of the people's representatives through DOMA. What the Court has done will undermine the best interest of children and the best interests of the United States."

NBC News reports that House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) was asked to respond to Bachmann's statement. Her response:

Who cares?

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HuffPost reports:

The Supreme Court finally ruled that the federal ban on same-sex marriage is unconstitutional, which means Kristen Bell and Dax Shepard will finally tie the knot -- along with millions of other gay Americans whose right to marry was previously denied.

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