(BJ Toro stands outside the U.S. Supreme Court while waiting for a ruling on two gay-marriage cases in Washington, D.C., U.S. Photographer: Photo: Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg/Getty Images )

Supreme Court strikes down Defense of Marriage Act, rules same-sex marriage legal in CA

 In a momentous decision for same-sex couples, the Supreme Court has struck down the Defense of Marriage Act, known as DOMA, ruling that it is unconstitutional. Same-sex couples in states that allow gay marriage will now be able to be eligible for the same federal benefits accorded to married couples.

“It’s fantastic news, it’s amazing – we were all on pins and needles waiting, and it’s incredible,” says Ingrid Duran, who co-founded a lobbying and consulting group with her partner, Catherine Pino called D&P Creative Strategies.

“It validates us as people and citizens of the United States,” Duran adds.  “For Catherine and I it’s bittersweet, because we live in Virginia and this only applies to same-sex couples in states where gay marriage is allowed,” she explains.  “But for them, it’s an amazing win.”

The Defense of Marriage Act, known as DOMA, was a law established in 1996 that defined marriage as one between a man and a woman. The law denies federal benefits – about 1,000 of them –  to same-sex couples married in states where gay marriage is legal.  The case reached the Supreme Court after an elderly New York woman, Edith Windsor, who had married her partner Thea Spyer in Canada, had to pay over $360,000 dollars in estate taxes when Spyer died. If Spyer would have been a man, she would not have had to pay, so she sued.

On Prop 8, the Supreme Court ruled that same-sex marriage is legal in California, but did not make a sweeping ruling on gay marriage. In 2008, 52 percent of Californians had voted in favor of Proposition 8, which made gay marriage illegal in the state. But state and district courts ruled Proposition 8 was unconstitutional.

RELATED: As Supreme Court hears arguments, Latinos increasingly in favor of gay marriage

In recent years, the public support for gay marriage has grown. Sixty two percent of Latino Catholics support gay marriage, according to a recent poll. Last year the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life and Pew Hispanic  found that for the first time since conducting its National Survey of Latinos, more Hispanics favored allowing gays and lesbians to marry legally (52 percent) than oppose it (34 percent). An ABC News election exit poll found 59 percent of Hispanic voters said they support same-sex marriage.  A recent Latino Decisions poll found 64 percent of Hispanic voters said comprehensive immigration reform should include the same rights for gay couples as heterosexual couples.

Latino civil rights groups like the National Council of La Raza have come out in support of striking down Prop 8 and DOMA.

“We’ve long known that Latinos support marriage equality for all, but recent polling confirms it,” the National Council of LaRaza (NCLR) wrote in a brief.  “The time has come for the Supreme Court to put an end to this debate and compel the federal government to recognize all legal marriages, not just those it chooses to.”

The news that the Supreme Court struck down DOMA elicited a positive reaction from DREAMer groups.

“This Supreme Court decision affirms that all families and individuals should be treated fairly and with justice,” said in a statement United We Dream Queer Undocumented Immigrant Project Coordinator Jorge Gutierrez.   “We will keep fighting for full equality and immigration reform to ensure that all immigrants, including hundreds of thousands of LGBT immigrants, are included in immigration reform with a clear, direct path to citizenship and fair treatment for all.”

RELATED: Opinion: Supreme Court should strike down gay marriage ban 

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