Supreme Court justices struck down the Defense of Marriage Act on Friday, ruling that states can’t ban same-sex couples from marrying under its ban on same-gender couples adopting children.
In a 5-4 ruling, the justices ruled that the states have no constitutional authority to ban same sex couples from adopting children, which they say violates the federal Defense of Choice Act.
The court’s decision, in a case that has divided the country, also struck down bans on same sex marriages.
A separate case was being heard by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit.
The Supreme Court will hear arguments on the two cases next month.
Justice Sonia Sotomayor wrote in her majority opinion that while the Constitution allows states to deny federal benefits to same- sex couples, that does not allow states to prohibit same- gender couples from receiving federal benefits.
“Marriage is a union between one man and one woman,” Sotomays.
“If it is true that a state cannot deny benefits on the grounds of sexual orientation, it is equally true that it cannot deny same-Gender couples benefits on that basis.” “
To deny benefits to such couples on the basis that they are legally different is to deny them equal protection under the law,” she added.
“If it is true that a state cannot deny benefits on the grounds of sexual orientation, it is equally true that it cannot deny same-Gender couples benefits on that basis.”
The court ruled on a lawsuit challenging the Defense on behalf of the gay and lesbian couples who married in Hawaii, Nevada, Ohio and Wisconsin.
The ruling came just hours after a lower court struck down a ban on a similar Defense of Love Act in Arizona.
The Justice Department had filed the lawsuit against Arizona and three other states, arguing that they were violating federal law by prohibiting same-gendered couples from using state benefits to adopt children.
The case had been filed in late June by the American Civil Liberties Union and other civil rights groups.
The groups had sought to prevent states from passing laws that would ban same gender couples in certain cases.
Justice Elena Kagan joined in the case, writing for the court that the Defense did not meet the requirement that it be enacted by statute or that the measure be “necessary and proper” to achieve a compelling government interest.
The Defense of Life with Dignity Act, a bill introduced by Republican Rep. Mark Meadows of North Carolina, is currently before the House and Senate Judiciary Committees.
The measure would provide a $1.7 billion annual aid to states and tribes to provide health insurance to low-income and disabled people.
The legislation would also provide money for schools and other public agencies to help them deal with child abuse and neglect.
The lawsuit filed against Arizona was filed by a group of religious leaders and couples who were joined by other advocates and others who oppose gay marriage.
“It’s important that the American people know that they can be free from discrimination,” the lawsuit read.
“We stand with the plaintiffs who want to be able to marry their love in this state.”
It was filed in the U, S. District Court for the Northern District of Arizona, where the case is pending.
The decision was expected to come down by the end of the day.