Supreme Court rules gay marriage law of the land

In a historic ruling, the Supreme Court extended gay marriage rights to couples in all 50 states.

Joshua Robert/Reuters
Supporters of gay marriage rally after the U.S. Supreme Court ruled on Friday that the U.S. Constitution provides same-sex couples the right to marry at the Supreme Court in Washington June 26, 2015.

Same sex marriage is now legal in every state in the United States after a historic Supreme Court ruling declared that the right to marriage equality is enshrined under the equal protection clause of the 14th Amendment. 

In what marriage equality advocates have called the most important civil rights case in a generation, 5 out of 9 court justices ruled in favor of same-sex marriage. This means the remaining 14 states that did not recognize same-sex marriage, most of which are in the South and Midwest, will no longer be able to enforce bans on the marriages of gay couples.

The results of this historic case, known as Obergefell v. Hodges after an Ohio man who sued the state to get his name listed on his late husband’s death certificate, mark a long-sought victory for LGBT rights activists who have campaigned for decades in favor of marriage equality.

“No union is more profound than marriage, for it embodies the highest ideals of love, fidelity, devotion, sacrifice, and family. It would misunderstand these men and women to say they disrespect the idea of marriage. Their plea is that they do respect it, respect it so deeply that they seek to find its fulfillment for themselves,” Justice Anthony Kennedy said in his closing opinion.

“Their hope is not to be condemned to live in loneliness, excluded from one of civilization’s oldest institutions. They ask for equal dignity in the eyes of the law. The Constitution grants them that right. The judgment of the Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit is reversed.”

Each of the four opposing justices issued separate dissenting opinions. "This court is not a legislature. Whether same-sex marriage is a good idea should be of no concern to us," wrote Cheif Justice John Roberts.

"If you are among the many Americans — of whatever sexual orientation — who favor expanding same-sex marriage, by all means celebrate today's decision," Roberts said, reading his opinion from the bench. "But do not celebrate the Constitution. It had nothing to do with it."

The Obama administration supports same-sex marriage, and many high-profile politicians such as President Obama and Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton took to their Twitter accounts to celebrate the Supreme Court’s decision.

The ruling will not take effect immediately because the court gives the losing side around 3 weeks to ask for the decision to be reconsidered.

According to UCLA's Williams Institute, which tracks the demographics of gay and lesbian Americans, there are an estimated 390,000 married same-sex couples in the United States.  Another 70,000 couples living in states that do not currently permit them to get married are expected to hear to the alter over the the next three years, the institute says.  Roughly 1 million same-sex couples, married and unmarried, live together in the United States. 

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