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What the Rulings on Gay Marriage Mean for Entrepreneurs

In two big-impact decisions, the U.S. Supreme Court broadly expanded gay marriage rights in the United States. What will these decisions mean for business opportunities?


In a ruling at least 17 years in the making, the U.S. Supreme Court has struck down the federal Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA). The court appears also to have ended California's ban on gay marriage on a technicality.

Like many Supreme Court moves, the ramifications of these decisions are going to be far-ranging and will take a long time to figure out. (Litigants are still suing each other over the landmark school desegregation case that the court decided in 1954, for example, to say nothing of Roe v. Wade.)

In short, the court said that DOMA is invalid because it was enacted "for no legitimate purpose," as Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote for the majority. "[T]he federal statute is in violation of the Fifth Amendment."

As for California law, the court said that proponents of a ban on gay marriage had no standing to appeal from a court decision that overturned the law after the state of California itself declined to appeal.

(This brings to life what one newspaper called, "the messiest scenario, and would likely lead to further legal battles over the scope of appellate judge's ruling and whether it applies throughout California.")

These are among perhaps the most important decisions the court has issued in years, in terms of their impact on American society. I'll be watching with just about everyone else to learn how things shake out.

Like you, I'll also be thinking about what these decisions--and the "change in the context that they represent" -- mean for entrepreneurs. In light of the decision, what do you think the opportunities and challenges will be for people who start and run businesses?

I took my first stab at this in March, while the cases were pending. At the time, I came up with the cases' potential impact on the wedding and divorce industries, the adoption industry, federal spending, and even socially conservative direct marketing. You can find my list here.

What do you think? What other opportunities do these decisions present for entrepreneurs? Let me know in the comments, on Twitter, or email me. I'll present some of the best ideas in a future column.

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Last updated: Jun 26, 2013

BILL MURPHY JR. | Columnist

Bill Murphy Jr. is a journalist, ghostwriter, and entrepreneur. He is the author of Breakthrough Entrepreneurship (with Jon Burgstone) and is a former reporter for The Washington Post.

The opinions expressed here by columnists are their own, not those of

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