WASHINGTON (CNN) - Victory for supporters of same-sex marriage as the Supreme Court overturns the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act and California's Proposition 8.
Elation outside the Supreme Court, and dejection, as a five to four majority tore out the heart of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), which denied federal benefits to same-sex couples for 17 years.
In the quiet courtroom, a stifled squeals of joy from the audience when Justice Anthony Kennedy read his ruling, "DOMA is unconstitutional as a deprivation of the liberty of the person protected by the Fifth Amendment." He said it's up to states to regulate marriage, not Congress.
Following the decision, the President called 84 year old Edie Windsor. She initially brought this case to fight a huge tax bill when her wife died. "On a practical level due to DOMA I was taxed $363,000 in federal estate tax that I would not have had to pay if I was married to a man," said Windsor.
Justice Antonin Scalia's dissent was scathing, "When the court declared a constitutional right to homosexual sodomy, we were assured that the case had nothing, nothing at all to do with 'whether the government must give formal recognition to any relationship that homosexual persons seek to enter. Now we are told that DOMA is invalid because it 'demeans the couple, whose moral and sexual choices the constitution protects,'
Just minutes later, the other 5-4 decision on California's proposition 8; this time Chief Justice John Roberts gave the opinion for other tired and weary looking justices.
He said the court could not decide the California case because opponents of same-sex marriage couldn't show how they had been harmed. Which means gay marriage in California can resume when a lower court gives the word; though opponents promise to keep fighting.
This is far from over. In fact, time is not on the side of those who want to redefine marriage.
More than a thousand federal benefits were restricted by the Defense of Marriage Act. U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder said the Department of Justice will move swiftly to put the court's decision into action.