For the first time, gay marriages can be recognized by the American federal government. The Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) has been ruled unconstitutional by the Supreme Court.
DOMA, the federal law that prevents legally married gay couples from receiving federal tax, health and pension benefits, was voted unconstitutional by a 5-4 majority.
Overturning DOMA means that same-sex married couples can receive over 1,100 federal legal benefits and protections enjoyed by straight couples. They'll also receive the symbolic benefit of full legal recognition of their marriages.
DOMA was struck down because it violates the constitution's equal protection clause and because it infringed states rights, according to the majority opinion written by Justice Kennedy. The 1996 law "violates basic due process and equal protection principles applicable to the federal government," he wrote.
"DOMA undermines both the public and private significance of state-sanctioned same-sex marriages; for it tells those couples, and all the world, that their otherwise valid marriages are unworthy of federal recognition," Kennedy continued.
He added that the law creates unequal protection because it "instructs all federal officials, and indeed all persons with whom same-sex couples interact, including their own children, that their marriage is less worthy than the marriages of others."
You can read the SCOTUS judges' opinions here.
You can see how the ruling affect each state with this Washington Post infographic.