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Supreme Court strikes down Defense of Marriage Act

Posted at 10:03 AM, Jun 26, 2013

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- In a dramatic slap at federal authority, a divided Supreme Court has struck down a key part of congressional law that denies to legally married same-sex couples the same benefits provided to heterosexual spouses.

The Defense of Marriage Act defines marriage as only between a man and a woman.

The vote Wednesday was 5-4. [RELATED: High court dismisses California’s Prop. 8 appeal]

"Although Congress has great authority to design laws to fit its own conception of sound national policy, it cannot deny the liberty protected by the Due Process Clause of the Fifth Amendment," said Justice Anthony Kennedy. [BONUS: Click here to read the high court's 77-page ruling on DOMA]

The case examined whether the federal government can deny tax, health and pension benefits to same-sex couples in states where they can legally marry. At issue was whether DOMA violates equal protection guarantees in the Fifth Amendment's due process clause as applied to same-sex couples legally married under the laws of their states.