The challenge was brought on behalf of two same-sex couples, Perry and her partner, Sandra Stier, and Paul Katami and his partner, Jeffrey Zarrillo. Both couples were denied marriage licenses in California because of the Proposition 8 ban.

The California case arose after the state Supreme Court ruled that same-sex couples had the right to marry. Voters subsequently changed the state's constitution in 2008, in the Proposition 8 ballot measure, to limit marriages to those between one man and one woman.

After a high-profile 12-day trial in San Francisco, U.S. District Judge Vaughn Walker issued an unusually detailed, 136-page opinion in August 2010 in which he concluded that Proposition 8 violated the U.S. Constitution.

California state officials declined to defend the same-sex marriage ban. Instead, conservative former Southern California state legislator Dennis Hollingsworth and allies argued on the proposition's behalf.

The California Supreme Court concluded, and the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals agreed, that the opponents were authorized to step in since the state had stepped out.


The federal law defining marriage inserted the national government into what traditionally had been state territory.

The case arose from a challenge filed by Edith Windsor, who married her longtime partner, Thea Clara Spyer, in 2007. They remained a couple until Spyer died in 2009. The Defense of Marriage Act prohibited Windsor from receiving a deduction afforded married couples. She had to pay $363,053 in estate taxes, and the Internal Revenue Service denied her refund request.

Supporters of the Defense of Marriage Act when it passed included Democratic Sen. Harry Reid of Nevada, who's now the Senate majority leader, and then-Sen. Joe Biden of Delaware, now the vice president.

The House of Representatives, which passed the bill 342-67, explained in a committee report that the law was meant to convey "moral disapproval of homosexuality."

In the years that followed, though, a number of supporters began back-pedaling.

The act now is opposed by former Rep. Bob Barr of Georgia, a Republican author of the bill.

The Obama administration initially defended the federal law, as is customary for administrations, but it stopped in February 2011 after concluding that Section 3 violated the Constitution.

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