DOMA: Get the Facts

Learn more about the Supreme Court gay marriage ruling on the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA)

In June 2013, the Supreme Court struck down Section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) in United States v. Windsor. This landmark case affirmed that all loving and committed couples who are married deserve equal legal respect and treatment from the federal government. 

The demise of DOMA marked a turning point in how the United States government treated the relationships of married same-sex couples for federal programs that are linked to being married. The Obama administration took swift action, implementing this decision across the federal government and opening the door for same-sex couples to access critical federal benefits and programs like immigration, family leave, taxation, and federal employee health insurance coverage for the first time. However, there is still work to do.  Also, because Windsor did not address Section 2 of DOMA, thousands of legally married same-sex couples remain unrecognized in the state where they live. Couples living in states that do not recognize their marriage remain excluded from Social Security and Veterans Benefits and still experience discrimination when filing state income tax.

This summer, the Supreme Court has the opportunity to end this discrimination and grant same-sex couples and their families the security that only marriage can provide. In April, the Court will hear oral arguments in Obergefell v. Hodges, a combined set of cases challenging the rights of states to refuse to recognize legal same-sex marriages performed in other jurisdictions.  Behind the case and the headlines, is the lead plaintiff, Jim Obergefell.  Jim married his partner, John, of 22 years in July 2013 sitting on a tarmac at a Maryland airport.  At the time of their wedding, John was in the final stages of a long battle with ALS.  When the couple returned home to Ohio, they learned that despite their marriage, Jim would not be listed as John’s spouse on his death certificate. After 22 years together, John would be forced to check “single” on this final official document.

This case has the potential to give couples across the country, regardless of where they live, with the dignity and security that only nationwide marriage recognition can provide.

Get the Facts on What this Means for You with the LGBT Organization Fact Sheet Series

After DOMA: Resources in English

Después de DOMA: Recursos en Español