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U.S. Supreme Court legalizes same-sex marriage in all 50 states
U.S. Supreme Court legalizes same-sex marriage in all 50
The U.S. Supreme Court ruling giving gay people the right to marry in all 50 states is vindication of
the belief that "ordinary people can do extraordinary things" and has "made our union a little more
perfect," President Barack Obama said Friday.
The court ruled that allowing states to deny gay people the right to marry is a violation of the
In a 5-4 decision released Friday, the court ruled that the amendment obliges states to license
marriages between people of the same sex and to recognize marriages lawfully performed outside of
state. Thirty-seven of the 50 states and the District of Columbia already allow gay marriage,
and Friday's ruling means the others will have to follow suit.
The ruling only affects state laws. Religious institutions can still choose whether or not to marry
'[The decision] affirms what millions of Americans already believe in their hearts.'- U.S. President
Obama called the decision "a victory for America" and said it "affirms what millions of Americans
already believe in their hearts."
"When all Americans are treated equal, we are all more free," he said from the White House Rose
He praised the perseverance of those who have fought for gay rights and marriage equality for
decades "and slowly made an entire country realize that love is love."
Aixa Adame, left, and Lacey Darcy exchange vows in front of Judge Laura Strathmann in the 388th
District Courtroom in El Paso, Texas. They were the first female couple to be married in El Paso.
(Victor Calzada/The El Paso Times/Associated Press)
"Change must have seemed so slow for so long," Obama said. "But compared to so many other
issues, America's shift has been so quick."
Outside of the court in Washington, D.C., gay couples and gay rights supporters erupted in cheers,
whoops and cries of U-S-A!" and "Love is love" when the ruling came down.
"I'm simply elated," said Kenneth Barnes, waving a rainbow flag he's had for more than 20 years. "I
never thought I'd see this in my lifetime,"
Barnes and his partner married in California in 2008. "Now, everyone can do this," he said.
Many same-sex couples living in states where gay marriage had been banned headed immediately to
county clerks' offices to get marriage licences as state officials issued statements saying they would
respect the ruling. Technically, the losing side has three weeks to ask for reconsideration of the
ruling, but many state officials and county clerks started issuing marriage licences right away.
Some waived the usual waiting period between getting a licence and the marriage ceremony.
Equal protection for all
The 14th Amendment affords equal protection under the law to all citizens and was key in other
landmark decisions on such divisive issues as reproductive rights and racial and gender
discrimination (for example, in Brown v. Board of Education, and Roe v. Wade).
The top court ruled it would be a violation of the amendment to grant marriage rights only to
"No union is more profound than marriage, for it embodies the highest ideals of love, fidelity,
devotion, sacrifice and family. ... [The challengers] ask for equal dignity in the eyes of the law. The
constitution grants them that right," Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote in the majority opinion.
Obama welcomed the decision with a tweet and a phone call to the lead plaintiff in the case, James
"I'm really proud of you and just know that not only did you set a great example for people, but
you're also going to bring about lasting change in this country," he told him in the call,
which Obergefell took as he was celebrating in front of the Supreme Court and put on speaker so the
crowd could lsiten in.
'From this day forward, it will simply be "marriage,"' James Obergefell, the lead plaintiff in the case,
said after the landmark ruling. (Andrew Harnik/Associated Press)
Obergefell was in court when Kennedy read the decision and afterward held up a photo of his late
spouse, John, outside the court building, saying the ruling establishes that "our love is equal."
"This is for you, John." he said.
"From this day forward, it will simply be 'marriage.'"
The White House donned rainbow colours, a symbol of the gay rights movement, on its Twitter and
home page in celebration of the ruling.
In its ruling, the Supreme Court said the "long history of disapproval of their relationships" and
the denial of the right to marry has done a "grave and continuing harm" to same-sex couples.
Laurin Locke, 24, left, and her partner, Tiffany Brosh, 26, of Pearl, Miss., applied for a marriage
licence at the Hinds County Circuit Clerk's office in Jackson, Miss., moments after the U.S. Supreme
Court ruling came down. (Rogelio V. Solis/Associated Press)
"The imposition of this disability on gays and lesbians serves to disrespect and subordinate
them," Kennedy wrote. "And the equal protection clause, like the due process clause, prohibits this
unjustified infringement of the fundamental right to marry."
Kennedy, a conservative appointed by Republican President Ronald Reagan in 1988 who often casts
the deciding vote in close cases, has authored all four of the court's major gay rights rulings, with
the first coming in 1996.
Justice Antonin Scalia wrote the most scathing of the four dissenting opinions, calling the decision a"
threat to American democracy" and ridiculing the flowery language of the majority opinion.
Eric Braman, right, is hugged by his best man after registering for a marriage licence with his
partner Kris Katkus, in Kalamazoo, Mich. (Mark Bugnaski/Kalamazoo Gazette-MLive Media
"If, even as the price to be paid for a fifth vote, I ever joined an opinion for the court that began: 'The
Constitution promises liberty to all within its reach, a liberty that includes certain specific rights that
allow persons, within a lawful realm, to define and express their identity,' I would hide my head in a
bag," Scalia wrote.
"The Supreme Court of the United States has descended from the disciplined legal reasoning of John
Marshall and Joseph Story to the mystical aphorisms of the fortune cookie."
Scalia took strong issue with the majority interpretation of the 14th Amendment.
"The five Justices who compose today's majority are entirely comfortable concluding that every state
violated the Constitution for all of the 135 years between the 14th Amendment's ratification and
Massachusetts's permitting of same-sex marriages in 2003," he wrote. "They have discovered in
the 14th Amendment a 'fundamental right' overlooked by every person alive at the time of
ratification, and almost everyone else in the time since."
The other dissenters were justices Samuel Alito, Clarence Thomas and John Roberts.
Roberts said there are compelling policy arguments for extending marriage to same-sex couples but
no legal argument to justify forcing states to change their marriage laws.
"The fundamental right to marry does not include a right to make a state change its definition of
marriage," he wrote. "Our constitution does not enact any one theory of marriage. The people of a
state are free to expand marriage to include same-sex couples, or to retain the historic definition."
He said that while he doesn't begrudge supporters of gay marriage their celebrations, the court
overstepped in handing down a ruling that "orders the transformation of a social institution that has
formed the basis of human society for millennia, for the Kalahari bushmen and the Han Chinese, the
Carthaginians and the Aztecs."
"Just who do we think we are?" he wrote.
Roberts and other dissenters predicted further legal wrangles from those opposed to same-sex
marriage on religious grounds.
Political Conservatives also denounced the ruling. Republican presidential candidate Mike Huckabee
called it "an out-of-control act of unconstitutional judicial tyranny."
Wisconsin Republican Governor Scott Walker, also running for president, called for amending the
U.S. Constitution to allow states to again ban same-sex marriage. Texas Republican Governor Greg
Abbott said, "Marriage was defined by God. No man can redefine it."
The court was examining two key questions:
Whether states can ban same-sex marriage.
Whether states with gay marriage bans can refuse to recognize marriages performed in other
jurisdictions where same-sex marriage is legal.
The plaintiffs had argued that the court had already acknowledged marriage is a fundamental right
in previous decisions and that they were merely seeking equal access to this right.
Jayne Rowse, left, and partner April DeBoer were among the five plaintiffs whose cases made up the
challenge of gay marriage bans before the Supreme Court. (Bill Pugliano/Getty)
The challenge of state bans on gay marriage joined together the cases of Obergefell, April DeBoer,
Jayne Rowse, Ijpe DeKoe and Thomas Kostura.
DeKoe and Kostura legally married in New York but then moved to Tennessee, where their marriage
Obergefell legally married his partner of 20 years, John Arthur, in Maryland, but was not recognized
as his legal spouse when Arthur died a few months later in Ohio.
DeBoer and Rowse have three children together but were prevented from jointly adopting them or
having them covered under each other's health insurance because they were not legally married,
and couldn't get married because their home state of Michigan doesn't recognize same-sex
Ruling follows other key victories in gay rights movement
The court's latest decision is the most important expansion of marriage rights in the United States
since its landmark 1967 ruling in the case Loving v. Virginia that struck down state laws barring
The ruling is the latest milestone in the gay rights movement in recent years. In 2010, Obama signed
a law allowing gays to serve openly in the U.S. military. In 2013, the Supreme Court struck down a
provision of the federal Defence of Marriage Act that defined marriage as a union between a woman
and man and prevented same-sex couples married in states where such unions are legal from
accessing certain federal programs and filing tax returns as a married couple, for example.
The U.S. is the latest of many Western countries to recognize same-sex marriage. Last month, voters
in Ireland backed same-sex marriage by a landslide in a referendum that marked a dramatic social
shift in the traditionally Roman Catholic country.
Gay marriage is also legal in Canada, South Africa, Brazil, Britain, France and Spain, but many parts
of Africa and Asia consider it -- and homosexuality in general -- taboo and often illegal.