The U.S. Supreme Court and LGBT Rights



The Supreme Court of the United States made two major decisions in 2013 that furthered equality for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) Americans. In one case, the Supreme Court overturned the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), a law passed by the U.S. Congress in 1996. At that time, as today, some U.S. states recognized same-sex marriages and others did not. Under DOMA, if a same-sex couple was married in a state that allowed such unions, the couple would not receive federal marriage benefits, including tax benefits, or be recognized as married by the federal government. In 2013, the Supreme Court ruled that DOMA violated the U.S. Constitution because it denied equal protection under the law to same-sex couples that are legally married in their state.

The second major case, Hollingsworth v. Perry, questioned whether same-sex marriage was legal in the state of California. After an appellate court decision, the Supreme Court decided that the sponsors of the suit had no standing to appeal the appellate decision, allowing the lower court decision to stand. This effectively made same-sex marriages legal in California.

The 2013 Supreme Court actions were milestones for supporters of LGBT equality, but there are still many challenges ahead. The DOMA decision, for example, only applies to same-sex marriages from states where same-sex marriages are already legal. The law still allows states where same-sex marriages are illegal to not recognize same-sex unions from other states.