In a major victory for gay rights, the United States Supreme Court struck down the Defense of Marriage Act this morning, ruling the 1996 law unconstitutional. Same-sex married couples are now entitled to the same federal status as other married couples, such as in regard to income taxes and Social Security.
The case, United States v. Windsor, is based on a New York woman, Eddie Windsor, who married her spouse, Thea Clara Spyer in Canada. Upon Ms. Spyer’s death in 2009, Ms. Windsor inherited her estate and was taxed as if they were unmarried. In their decision today, the Supreme Court ruled that DOMA created a separate and unequal class of citizens in cases such as this.
A few minutes ago, the Supreme Court issued a 5-4 ruling authored by Chief Justice John Roberts upholding the most controversial portion of President Barack Obama’s healthcare law–an individual mandate requiring most Americans to purchase health insurance or face fines by 2014. The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, which was the president’s signature achievement and top priority in the first part of his term, was signed into law on March 2010. It was intended to provide coverage for 50 million uninsured Americans by allowing anyone under 26 to stay on their parents’ policy, forcing states to provide Medicaid to those under 65 whose incomes are up to 133 percent of the poverty level, barring insurance companies from denying coverage or charging premiums to people with pre-existing conditions and mandating most uninsured Americans purchase insurance or face fines by 2014.
Though the Court upheld the individual mandate, they did limit the scope of the provisions forcing states to provide Medicaid. According to SCOTUSBlog, the Court ruled the individual mandate is constitutional because it can simply be read as the imposition of a tax.
The individual mandate has been the most controversial element of the law and led to 26 states challenging its constitutionality in the courts. Opponents argue the federal government cannot require to people to purchase insurance, while supporters say it is necessary regulation of commerce.
In advance of the ruling, Mitt Romney’s campaign spokeswoman Andrea Saul sent out a “campaign update” to reporters this morning summarizing the candidate’s position on the law.