WASHINGTON – Major American Jewish organizations roundly praised the US Supreme Court on Wednesday for striking down the Defense of Marriage Act as unconstitutional and for demanding that federal benefits be extended to gay couples in states where their marriages are recognized.

The top court also overturned California’s Proposition 8 – which took away the previously granted right of gays to marry in the state by popular referendum in 2008 – on a technicality, finding that the representatives of the case did not have standing to appeal to their chamber and thus defaulting to the position of a lower court.

“Full recognition of marriage equality – the right to marry the person one loves regardless of gender – is a right whose recognition is long overdue,” Marc D. Stern, general counsel at the American Jewish Committee, said, referring to gay marriage for all in the United States as an inevitability. “Today’s decisions are a large but, unfortunately, incomplete step in that direction.”

The decision on the Defense of Marriage Act (1996) was written more broadly than expected by Justice Anthony Kennedy, who is known to be an advocate both for state’s rights and gay rights. This ruling appealed to federalist principles, and indeed, Kennedy dissented on the finding of standing on the Proposition 8 case, implying an interest in applying those principles nationwide.

“We just have to be hopeful that those broad principles of equal treatment for all will prevail,” Deborah Lauter, civil rights director at the Anti-Defamation League, told The Jerusalem Post. “For those states without marriage equality, hopefully they will look at this decision as a positive development and will get on board.”

Twelve US states and the District of Columbia allow gays to marry.

“The civil rights community here has had a roller-coaster week,” Lauter added, alluding to a decision from the Supreme Court on Tuesday that gutted the Voting Rights Act of 1965.

Representatives from both the Reform and Conservative movements were quick to issue praise.

“On behalf of the 1,700 rabbis of the Rabbinical Assembly, I join with Jews across California and the United States in acknowledging today’s Supreme Court decisions as opening the way for loving and committed same-sex couples to enjoy the rights and privileges of marriage,” said Rabbi Gerald Skolnik, president of the Conservative movement’s Rabbinical Assembly, noting that the plaintiff in the case, Edith Windsor, was a Holocaust survivor.

“Today’s decisions by the US Supreme Court represent a gratifying and historic step toward justice and equality for same-sex couples under our nation’s laws,” National Council of Jewish Women CEO Nancy K. Kaufman said. “NCJW is gratified that the court’s decision in this case grants same-sex couples the respect, rights and recognition that they deserve and for which they have struggled for many years.”

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