DOMA decision a new, uncertain beginning for many - NEWS10 ABC: Albany, New York News, Weather, Sports

DOMA decision a new, uncertain beginning for many

ALBANY, N.Y. -- Now that the Supreme Court has ruled the Defense of Marriage Act is unconstitutional, what exactly does that mean for married same sex couples moving forward?

The five to four decision to overturn the Defense of Marriage Act is monumental in the sense it means no federal laws can deny same sex couples the right to benefits. 

"These cases are huge, this is absolutely huge," said Albany Law School professor Vincent Bonventre.

For Bonventre, the DOMA decision is a new beginning.  "It is a great day for married same sex couples in New York," said Bonventre.

The federal law had said that same sex couples, even if they're married, are not entitled to federal benefits like social security, health benefits, and tax benefits.  It also meant that the federal government wouldn't recognize a same sex marriage as legal.

"That [DOMA] went down, that was struck five to four," said Bonventre.  Largely, because the Supreme Court Justices felt the law was based on moral disproval.

"That's not a legitimate constitutional bases for denying federal benefits to this class of people," said Bonventre.

But the new ruling only applies on a federal level.  That means the same sex couples that live in states which don't recognize their marriage are still not eligible for federal benefits because they aren't legally married.

"Their prohibitions are still valid, they haven't been declared invalid," said Bonventre. 

Bonventre thinks since the court decision was so close and didn't address the broad question of whether same sex marriage should be nationally legal, shows how divided the justices were on their ruling.  He also thinks that Wednesday's vote could be a forecast of future decisions about same sex marriage.

"You have the United States Supreme Court for the first time, putting it's stamp of approval on same sex marriages," said Bonventre. 

Since states can still decide to recognize same sex marriage or not, Bonventre believes in future cases the Supreme Court will have to address whether or not same sex marriage should be legal across all 50 states.

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