The Supreme Court has issued a pair of significant but incomplete victories for supporters of gay marriage.
In one 5-to-4 ruling, the court struck down a provision of a federal law that denied federal benefits to gay married couples. The provision of the Defense of Marriage Act kept legally-married same-sex couples from receiving tax, health and pension benefits that go to married couples of the opposite sex.
In the other, also a 5-to-4 ruling, the justices said nothing at all about same-sex marriage itself. But they left in place a finding by a trial court that California's Proposition 8 -- banning same-sex marriage -- is unconstitutional.
That's an outcome that will probably allow California officials to order the resumption of same-sex weddings in the state in about a month.
President Barack Obama is applauding the Supreme court's decision to strike down the Defense of Marriage Act. Obama says the court "has righted a wrong, and our country is better off for it."
Obama says he has directed Attorney General Eric Holder to work with others in his administration to make sure federal law reflects the court's decision.
He also says that nothing in the decision changes how religious institutions define and consecrate marriage.
Former President Bill Clinton is welcoming the Supreme Court decision as well. Clinton signed DOMA into law in 1996.
In a joint statement with former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, the former president said the court recognized that discrimination toward any group holds all Americans back in efforts to form a more perfect union.
The Clintons also said they were encouraged that gay marriage may soon resume in California.
They congratulated the advocates and plaintiffs in the cases.
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The U.S. Supreme Court this morning struck down the Defense of Marriage Act and California's Proposition 8.
By a 5-4 vote, the court struck down part of the 1996 law that prevented the federal government from recognizing gay marriages in states where it's legal.
The court said it made the ruling under the equal protection clause of the constitution. “DOMA instructs all federal officials, and indeed all persons with whom same-sex couples interact, including their own children, that their marriage is less worthy than the marriages of others,” the ruling said.
“The federal statute is invalid, for no legitimate purpose overcomes the purpose and effect to disparage and to injure those whom the State, by its marriage laws, sought to protect in personhood and dignity.”
That means the federal government must recognize same sex marriages in states where they are legal.
The court also overturned California Proposition 8, which stopped gay marriages in that state. The high court said the case was not properly before them, so a previous lower court ruling that overturned the law now stands.
Crowds are gathering outside the U.S. Supreme Court ahead of two gay marriage decisions.
One person held a rainbow flag and another wrapped himself in a rainbow shawl, and a number of people carried signs with messages including "2 moms make a right" and "'I Do' Support Marriage Equality."
Thirty-four-year-old Ian Holloway of Los Angeles got to the court around 7 a.m. Holloway said he and his partner had planned to get married in March but when the justices decided to hear the case involving California's ban on gay marriage they pushed back their date.
He said, "We have rings ready. We're ready to go as soon as the decision comes down." Holloway said he was optimistic the justices would strike down Proposition 8, which banned gay marriage in California.
A group of Greenville residents who support marriage equality say they will rally at the Pitt County Courthouse to either celebrate or share their concerns on the Supreme Court decision.
That rally will start at 6:00 p.m.