June 26 (Bloomberg) — A divided U.S. Supreme Court gave a victory to the gay-rights movement, striking down a federal law that denies benefits to same-sex married couples and clearing the way for weddings to resume in California. The court stopped short of declaring constitutional right for gays to marry, or even ruling directly on California’s voter-approved ban. Greg Stohr reports on Bloomberg Television’s “Market Makers.”
Michael Knaapen, left, and his husband John Becker, of Wisconsin, celebrate after the U.S. Supreme Court overturned the Defense of Marriage Act and declined to rule on the California law Proposition 8 in Washington, D.C., on June 26, 2013.
The court overturned by a 5-4 majority the U.S. Defense of Marriage Act, rejecting many of the justifications for treating same-sex and heterosexual couples differently. The court also reinstated a judge’s order allowing gay marriages in California, the nation’s largest state by population.
Some of the biggest financial firms have criticized prohibitions of same-sex marriage, saying the measures could make it harder to recruit staff. Insurer Chubb Corp., which highlights the benefits it offers to domestic partners, said in 2011 that DOMA “imposes burdens” on businesses.
“Marriage equality lowers burdens and challenges imposed on employers, and will lead to building successful businesses and a strong American economy,” New York-based Goldman Sachs said in an e-mailed statement. “We strongly support the Supreme Court’s affirmation today of marriage equality.”
The ruling could simplify administrative duties for employers in states like New York where gay marriage is legal, said J.D. Piro, national practice leader for the health-and-benefits legal practice at Aon Plc (AON)’s Aon Hewitt consulting business.
“Now, according to the decision, you look at the state law’s definition of what is a marriage, and who is a spouse, and interpret the federal law that way,” Piro said in a phone interview. “So in New York, for example, whereas previously you had to file separate federal income tax returns but a joint New York state income tax return, now you’d be able to file a joint federal return.”
Apple Inc. (AAPL), the world’s most valuable technology company, and Citigroup Inc. (C), the third-largest U.S. bank by assets, also welcomed the court’s decision.
“Apple strongly supports marriage equality,” Kristin Huguet, a spokeswoman for the Cupertino, California-based company, said in an e-mail. “We consider it a civil rights issue.”