UPDATE: U.S. Supreme Court strikes down DOMA: what does it mean? - WRCBtv.com | Chattanooga News, Weather & Sports

UPDATE: U.S. Supreme Court strikes down DOMA: what does it mean?

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Gay rights activist Bryce Romero, who works for the Human Rights Campaign, offers an enthusiastic high-five to visitors getting in line to enter the Supreme Court Wednesday. AP photo Gay rights activist Bryce Romero, who works for the Human Rights Campaign, offers an enthusiastic high-five to visitors getting in line to enter the Supreme Court Wednesday. AP photo
CHATTANOOGA, TN (WRCB) -

After the Supreme Court overturned the Defense of Marriage Act Wednesday, the question of how the ruling applies to states like Tennessee quickly became the topic of conversation.

The Tennessean spoke with Nashville attorney Abby Rubenfeld, who said this morning's Supreme Court's overturning of DOMA will provide huge relief for same-sex, married couples living in a third of the country, where same-sex marriage is recognized.

"I already have people lined up," said Rubenfeld, former legal director for Lambda Legal Defense. "The important point is the decision today, the relief it gives people. But I think the reasoning of this decision is really, really clear.

"Mini DOMAs in Tennessee and other states are all unconstitutional. They treat people differently. That doesn't meet the minimum standard."

President Barack Obama praised the court's ruling on the federal marriage act, which he said "was discrimination enshrined in law."

"It treated loving, committed gay and lesbian couples as a separate and lesser class of people," Obama said in a statement. "The Supreme Court has righted that wrong, and our country is better off for it."

The other high court decision was a technical legal ruling that said nothing at all about same-sex marriage, but left in place a trial court's declaration that California's Proposition 8 is unconstitutional. That outcome probably will allow state officials to order the resumption of same-sex weddings in the nation's most populous state in about a month.

Obama telephoned his congratulations to the plaintiffs in the California case from Air Force One en route to Africa.

In a sign that neither victory was complete, the high court said nothing about the validity of gay marriage bans in California and roughly three dozen other states. And a separate provision of the federal marriage law that allows a state to not recognize a same-sex union from elsewhere remains in place.

The ruling in that case was not along ideological lines. Chief Justice John Roberts wrote the majority opinion, joined by Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Stephen Breyer, Elena Kagan and Antonin Scalia.

"We have no authority to decide this case on the merits, and neither did the 9th Circuit," Roberts said, referring to the federal appeals court that also struck down Proposition 8.

In the case involving the federal Defense of Marriage Act, Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote the majority opinion, joined by the court's liberal justices.

"Under DOMA, same-sex married couples have their lives burdened, by reason of government decree, in visible and public ways," Kennedy said.

"DOMA's principal effect is to identify a subset of state-sanctioned marriages and make them unequal," he said.

Some in the crowd outside the court hugged and others jumped up and down just after 10 a.m. EDT Wednesday when the DOMA decision was announced. Many people were on their cell phones monitoring Twitter, news sites and blogs for word of the decision. And there were cheers as runners came down the steps with the decision in hand and turned them over to reporters who quickly flipped through the decisions.

Chants of "Thank you" and "USA" came from the crowd as plaintiffs in the cases descended the court's marbled steps. Most of those in the crowd appeared to support gay marriage, although there was at least one man who held a sign promoting marriage as between a man and a woman.

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