WASHINGTON (AP/WJZ) — The Supreme Court ruled Wednesday that legally married same-sex couples should get the same federal benefits as heterosexual couples in a 5-4 decision.

The high court decided it did not have the jurisdiction to vote on Proposition 8, so the lower court ruling that allows same-sex marriage in California will stand.

California officials probably will rely on that ruling to allow the resumption of same-sex unions in about a month’s time.

The Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender Community Center of Baltimore and Central Maryland is calling it a victory.

“The GLCCB urges all Marylanders, all advocates and allies, to celebrate this earth-shattering opinion by the Supreme Court,” said Matthew Thorn,  executive director for the GLCCB. ” Today, all Marylanders were told by the Supreme Court of the United States that you are an American, you are a full citizen of the United States; your relationship, your marriage, your family matters to our community as a country and must be respected and treated fairly under the law.”

Baltimore Archbishop William E. Lori is calling the decisions troubling.

“The Supreme Court’s decisions to overturn Proposition 8 and the Defense of Marriage Act are the latest in a troubling trend of decisions by lawmakers, judges and some voters which ignores the fundamental truth about marriage: it is the most valued, most important social unit in our society and as such is deserving of the protection and special recognition societies have afforded it throughout human history.  Today’s decisions will undoubtedly have far-reaching consequences, most especially for children, and are another serious blow to the institution of marriage,” he said in a release.   

Click here to read Archbishop Lori’s full statement.

The court invalidated a provision of the federal Defense of Marriage Act that has prevented married gay couples from receiving a range of tax, health and retirement benefits that are generally available to married people.

Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote the majority opinion.

Same-sex marriage has been adopted by 12 states and the District of Columbia. Another 18,000 couples were married in California during a brief period when same-sex unions were legal there.

“Under DOMA, same-sex married couples have their lives burdened, by reason of government decree, in visible and public ways,” Kennedy said.

“DOMA’s principal effect is to identify a subset of state-sanctioned marriages and make them unequal,” he said.

He was joined by the court’s four liberal justices.

Chief Justice John Roberts and Justices Samuel Alito, Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas dissented.

Scalia read his dissent aloud. Scalia said the court should not have decided the case.

But, given that it did, he said, “we have no power under the Constitution to invalidate this democratically adopted legislation.”

The law was passed in 1996 by broad majorities in the House of Representatives and the Senate, and signed into law by Democratic President Bill Clinton. Since then, many lawmakers who voted for the law and Clinton have renounced their support.

(Copyright 2013 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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