WASHINGTON (March 27, 2013)—The U.S. Supreme Court indicated Wednesday it could strike down the federal law that prevents legally married gay couples from receiving a range of federal benefits for married people.
Justice Anthony Kennedy, who’s often the decisive vote in close cases, joined the four more liberal justices on the court in raising questions Wednesday about the provision of the federal Defense of Marriage Act that’s the focus of a Supreme Court challenge.
Kennedy said the law appears to intrude on the power of states that have chosen to recognize same-sex marriages.
Other justices said the law creates what Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg called two classes of marriage, full marriage and "skim-milk marriage."
The law affects a range of benefits available to married couples, including tax breaks, survivor benefits and health insurance for spouses of federal employees.
It also is possible the court could dismiss the case for procedural reasons, though that prospect seemed less likely than it did in Tuesday's argument over a challenge to California’s ban on gay marriage.