The Supreme Court has paved the way for same-sex marriage in California to resume after ruling that supporters of Proposition 8, the 2008 California voter-approved amendment that defined marriage as between one man and one woman, do not have the right to appeal a lower court's ruling that struck it down in 2010.
The Associated Press noted that the court decided in a 5-4 decision on Wednesday to keep in place the 2010 ruling by United States District Court Judge Vaughn Walker that overturned Proposition 8 in the case of Hollingsworth v. Perry.
Less than an hour earlier, the Supreme Court also ruled to strike down a key provision of the federal Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), which now means that married same-sex couples will be able to receive the same tax, health and retirement benefits that are available to married heterosexual couples.
"The public is currently engaged in an active political debate over whether same-sex couples should be allowed to marry," Chief Justice John Roberts said in the Supreme Court's opinion on Proposition 8.
"We have never before upheld the standing of a private party to defend the constitutionality of a state statute when state officials have chosen not to," Roberts continued. "We decline to do so for the first time here."
Roberts was joined by Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Antonin Scalia, Stephen Breyer, and Elena Kagan in the majority opinion, while Justices Anthony Kennedy, Clarence Thomas, Samuel Alito and Sonia Sotomayor dissented.
Currently, 12 U.S. states, as well as the District of Columbia, have legalized gay marriage. The debate on same-sex marriage is expected to continue both in the courts and in public opinion, but for now states retain the right to decide by themselves whether gay marriage should be legal in their state.
President Obama, who has publicly endorsed gay marriage, tweeted following the Supreme Court decision, "Today's DOMA ruling is a historic step forward for #MarriageEquality," with the hashtag: #LoveIsLove.
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