The U.S. Supreme Court struck down the Defense of Marriage Act on Wednesday. The act denied federal benefits, like social security benefits, to same sex couples who were legally married in states that recognize gay marriage.
The ruling will affect more than one thousand federal laws and about 130,000 gay couples living in states that currently recognize gay marriage. In the twelve states that currently recognize gay marriage, same sex couples will now receive federal benefits.
The U.S. Supreme Court called the Defense of Marriage Act unconstitutional because it denies people protections guaranteed by the Fifth Amendment.
Gay marriage is illegal in North Carolina and this ruling does nothing to change that. The high court allowed each state to make its own decisions when it comes to this issue.
Wake Forest University Professor John Dinan said, "One of the natures of the federal system is to allow for experimentation and sorting out where states are allowed to make different decisions from others."
What happens if a same sex couple legally married in a state like Iowa moves to North Carolina, where same sex marriage is not legal? That's a good question.
"The Supreme Court did not give a clear answer to that today. It suggested that case was not before the court today. But, some of the dissenters said, certainly those cases will be coming before the court in future years," Dinan said.
The Supreme Court also upheld a California ruling that legalized same-sex marriage. Legal experts say the court essentially removed a ban on same sex marriage in California.
North Carolina's gay marriage ban is known as Amendment One. It was on the ballot last year. Sixty-one percent of voters supported the ban.