Even top NASA officials are celebrating the landmark same-sex marriage decision made by the U.S. Supreme Court today (June 26). Lori Garver, NASA's second-in-command, is hailing the ruling as a major win for equal rights.
The highest U.S. court overturned the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), which had prevented the federal government from recognizing legal same-sex marriages performed by states.
"This is a great day for equality and inclusion in America," Garver, who serves as NASA's deputy administrator, wrote on her agency blog today. "In striking down the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), the Supreme Court has sent a clear message that all legal marriages in America, regardless of gender, are deserving of equal dignity under the law." [I Don't: 5 Myths About Marriage]
The decision came in response to a suit brought by Edith Windsor against the federal government. Windsor was married in Canada in 2007 to her spouse of more than 40 years, Thea Spyer. When Spyer died in 2009, Windsor was forced to pay $360,000 in federal estate taxes to inherit Spyer's property, because DOMA prohibited the Internal Revenue Service from recognizing their union.
The Supreme Court ruled today that DOMA is unconstitutional in denying federal recognition to marriages legally performed and recognized by states.
"The defeat of DOMA is a victory for the spirit of fairness and inclusion that holds us together as one NASA family," Garver wrote.
The decision will extend a slew of federal benefits to legally married same-sex couples, and will require federal agencies to make significant changes in procedures related to marriage. For example, federal agencies such as NASA must now extend benefits like healthcare and pensions to all legal spouses, regardless of gender.
"The President has directed the Attorney General to work with other members of his Cabinet to review all relevant federal statutes to ensure this decision is implemented swiftly and smoothly," Garver wrote. "NASA looks forward to working with the Administration to fully implement the Court’s decision."
Garver wasn't the only government official celebrating the decision. President Barack Obama himself issued a statement in support of the ruling.
"The laws of our landing are catching up to the fundamental truth that millions of Americans hold in our hearts: when all Americans are treated as equal, no matter who they are or whom them love, we are all more free," he said.
The DOMA ruling was just one of multiple significant Supreme Court verdicts handed down today.
The court also declined to decide the case of Hollingsworth v. Perry, which contested California's same-sex marriage ban, Prop. 8, on the grounds that the traditional marriage proponents who were arguing it did not have standing to defend the law when state legislators declined to do so. The judgment effectively upheld a lower court ruling that found Prop. 8 unconstitutional, and experts say same-sex marriages could resume in California in a matter of weeks.
You can read Garver's complete post, 'A Great Day for Equality,' here: http://blogs.nasa.gov/cm/blog/garver/posts/post_1372278908143.html
Get the Space.com Newsletter
Breaking space news, the latest updates on rocket launches, skywatching events and more!
Clara Moskowitz is a science and space writer who joined the Space.com team in 2008 and served as Assistant Managing Editor from 2011 to 2013. Clara has a bachelor's degree in astronomy and physics from Wesleyan University, and a graduate certificate in science writing from the University of California, Santa Cruz. She covers everything from astronomy to human spaceflight and once aced a NASTAR suborbital spaceflight training program for space missions. Clara is currently Associate Editor of Scientific American. To see her latest project is, follow Clara on Twitter.