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DOMA: 'Scalia was right' about ruling's impact, pro-gay rights lawyer says (+video)

Therese Stewart, a lawyer involved in the recent Supreme Court cases, says Justice Scalia was right in saying the DOMA ruling laid the groundwork to attack and overturn state bans on same-sex marriages.

By Staff writer / July 2, 2013

United States Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia speaks to the North Carolina Bar Association at the Grove Park Inn in Asheville, N.C. on June 21, just days before the Supreme Court ruled that a key section of DOMA is unconstitutional. Scalia delivered a stinging dissent.

Dillon Deaton/Asheville Citizen-Times/AP

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Washington

The US Supreme Court has laid the legal groundwork to directly attack and overturn state bans on same-sex marriages, a lawyer involved in the recent historic gay rights cases at the high court said Tuesday.

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Therese Stewart, chief deputy in the San Francisco City Attorney’s Office, said that Justice Anthony Kennedy’s majority opinion last week striking down part of the federal Defense of Marriage Act provides a roadmap for gay rights groups and same-sex couples to pursue the next phase of litigation to achieve full marriage equality in the US.

Ms. Stewart cited an ironic source for her analysis – the dissenting opinion of conservative Justice Antonin Scalia.

“I think Scalia is correct that this decision in the DOMA case will provide a real foundation even though it doesn’t exactly resolve the question,” Ms. Stewart said in a telephone briefing with members of the liberal legal group, the American Constitution Society.

The landmark decision declared that federal lawmakers who enacted DOMA in 1996 were motivated by a bare desire to harm and demean members of a politically unpopular group.

Justice Kennedy wrote that states that recognized same-sex marriages had done so out of a desire to protect the “personhood and dignity” of same-sex spouses.

He said there was no justification for the US government to enact a federal law with the purpose and effect of disparaging and injuring same-sex spouses by treating their state-endorsed relationships as second-class marriages or less.

The action invalidated a portion of DOMA that had barred same-sex spouses from receiving 1,100 federal benefits available to opposite-sex spouses.

In the process, the five-justice majority established a constitutional precedent.

Kennedy added a disclaimer at the conclusion of his decision: “This opinion and its holding are confined to those lawful marriages [in states that recognize same-sex marriages].”

Justice Scalia fired off a sharply-worded dissent. “I have heard such bald, unreasoned disclaimers before,” he said.

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