WASHINGTON -- The U.S. Supreme Court ruled 5-4 Wednesday that gay couples are entitled to the same benefits as married heterosexual couples, invalidating a key portion of the Defense of Marriage Act.
Writing for the majority, Justice Anthony Kennedy said, "Under DOMA, same-sex married couples have their lives burdened, by reason of government decree, in visible and public ways."
"DOMA's principal effect is to identify a subset of state-sanctioned marriages and make them unequal," he added.
Chief Justice John Roberts and Justices Samuel Alito, Antonin Scalia, and Clarence Thomas dissented, with Scalia suggesting the case should have been decided by the states.
"We have no power under the Constitution to invalidate this democratically adopted legislation," he said.
What do these rulings mean for society and Christians moving forward? Ryan Anderson, co-author of the book What Is Marriage? offered more insight, on CBN Newswatch, June 26. Click play below for the interview.
The court also ruled that those defending California's Proposition 8 had no standing to defend it, dismissing their appeal outright. Like DOMA, the voter-approved state amendment defines marriage as being between a man and woman.
"We have no authority to decide this case on the merits, and neither did the 9th Circuit," Chief Justice John Roberts said, writing for the majority opinion, which included Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Stephen Breyer, Elena Kagan, and Antonin Scalia.
Wednesday's decision effectively clears the way for same-sex marriages to be recognized in the Golden State for now.
But Prop 8 supporters aren't necessarily admitting defeat. They say that at most the high court has thrown California into somewhat of a legal limbo.
"We remain committed to the continued enforcement of Proposition 8 until there's a statewide order saying otherwise," Andy Pugno, general counsel for ProtectMarriage.com, said.
Gay marriage advocates aren't giving up either, saying a long road still lies ahead in the battle for what they call marriage equality.
"We cannot forget our LGBT brothers and sisters in states that still discriminate against them and we will not allow it," Prop 8 plaintiff Paul Katami said Tuesday.
Chad Griffin, president of the Human Rights Campaign vowed, "Within five years we will bring marriage equality to all 50 states in this vast country."
Even as it crippled DOMA, the Court specifically did not say states have to legalize gay marriage. But its two rulings are big boosts to the gay marriage momentum.
Rev. Rob Schenck, chairman of the Evangelical Church Alliance, warned believers to get ready for an anti-Christian backlash.
"The script's already been written: Christians are mean, angry, bigoted, narrow-minded ugly people. That's the stereotype. We need to do what we can to defeat that stereotype," he said.
"One thing is true: the Supreme Court has no authority when it comes to the nature of marriage. That authority belongs to the Creator whom our Founders declared is the source of all our rights," Schenck said.
Wednesday's verdict comes as states remain split over the issue. The number of states permitting gay marriage has increased from six to 12 in the last year.
But the drive to legalize it in Illinois stalled. Constitutions in 30 states still ban the practice.