The U.S. Supreme Court on Friday morning ruled that same-gender marriage is legal nationwide, giving a huge victory for gay rights advocates.
In its historic 5-4 decision the Court ruled that that gay couples are allowed to marry no matter in which state they live, and that all states must treat gay couples exactly as they treat heterosexual couples.
Justice Anthony Kennedy, writing for the majority with the Court’s four liberal Justices, said, “The Court now holds that same-sex couples may exercise the fundamental right to marry. No longer may this liberty be denied to them.”
The Court went on to say that states must recognize a marriage between two people of the same gender when their marriage was lawfully licensed and performed out of state.
The majority based its conclusion that same-gender marriage is a fundamental right on “four principles and traditions: (1) right to person choice in marriage is ‘inherent in the concept of individual autonomy’; (2) ‘two-person union unlike any other in its importance to the committed individuals’; (3) marriage safeguards children and families; (4) marriage is a keystone to our social order.”
The Supreme Court used cases from Michigan, Ohio, Kentucky and Tennessee, where restrictions about same-sex marriage were upheld by an appeals court last year, to find that the Constitution does not allow such prohibitions.
In a rare display of dissent, the Court’s most conservative members — Chief Justice John Roberts Jr. and Justices Antonin Scalia, Clarence Thomas and Samuel Alito — each wrote their own dissents.
“The substance of today’s decree is not of immense personal importance to me,” Scalia wrote. “But what really astounds is the hubris reflected in today’s judicial Putsch,” adding that the ruling was a “threat to American democracy.”
Roberts wrote that the decision had “nothing to do with the Constitution.”
“If you are among the many Americans — of whatever sexual orientation — who favor expanding same-sex marriage, by all means celebrate today’s decision. Celebrate the achievement of a desired goal. Celebrate the opportunity for a new expression of commitment to a partner. Celebrate the availability of new benefits. But do not celebrate the Constitution. It had nothing to do with it.”
Gay and lesbian groups touted the Court’s decision as a watershed moment for the United States.
The National Gay & Lesbian Chamber of Commerce, the business voice of the LGBT community, said it is “elated by the Supreme Court’s ruling,” calling it “a momentous win for freedom, equality, and inclusion. … The Justices have affirmed what a bipartisan majority of Americans have come to understand: the freedom to marry is a constitutional right that is guaranteed to all Americans.”
On January 16, 2015, the U.S. Supreme Court agreed to consider four cases, in which lower courts upheld state bans on same-gender marriage. On April 28, the Court heard an historic oral argument in a set of combined cases styled as Obergefell v. Hodges, which challenged state laws that prohibited same-gender marriage. Those challenging the laws argued same-gender marriage bans are discriminatory and are an unconstitutional burden on a fundamental right.