Gay Marriage Now Legal in All Fifty States

Same-sex couples across the nation have a reason to celebrate as the Supreme Court ruled on Friday that same-sex marriages are now legal in all 50 states. In a 5-4 decision, the court ruled that the U.S. Constitution gives homosexuals the legal right to be married in all 50 states, and that this right is not solely reserved for heterosexual couples.

According to The Washington Post, the court’s action marks the culmination of an unprecedented upheaval in public opinion and the nation’s jurisprudence. Advocates called it the most pressing civil rights issue of modern times, while critics said the courts has sent the country into uncharted territory by changing the traditional definition of marriage.

“Under the Constitution, same-sex couples seek in marriage the same legal treatment as opposite-sex couples, and it would disparage their choices and diminish their personhood to deny them this right,” Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote in the majority opinion. Kennedy was accompanied in the ruling by liberal justices Stephen G. Breyer, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Elena Kagan and Sonia Sotomayor.

All four of the court’s conservative members, which consist of Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr, Justices Antonin Scalia, Samuel A. Alito Jr., and Clarence Thomas, all disagreed with the ruling. They concluded that the court seized a power that was meant for the people and not for the federal government to determine.

“Many people will rejoice at this decision, and I begrudge none their celebration,” Roberts wrote in his opinion that is posted on “But for those who believe in a government of laws, not of men, the majority’s approach is deeply disheartening.”

During the original hearing before the Supreme Court, two primary questions were posed for the Court to rule upon. The justices were asked to consider whether states can ban same-sex marriages all together and if all 50 states were required to recognize marriage ceremonies performed outside of their state.

Attorney John Bursch, who is currently serving as Michigan’s Special Assistant Attorney General, defended four states’ bans on gay marriage and argued that the case was simply not about defining marriage itself, but rather who gets to decide it in the first place.

The case was brought before the Supreme Court after several lower courts overturned state bans on gay marriage, according to A federal appeals court had previously ruled in favor of the state bans, with Judge Jeffrey Sutton of the Sixth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals rationalizing that the issue should have been decided through the political process, not the courts.

A total of 14 couples, in addition to two widowers, challenged the gay marriage bans. Attorneys Douglas Hallward-Driemeier and Mary Bonauto presented their cases to the Supreme Court, arguing that the freedom to marry is considered to be a fundamental right for everyone and should not be decided by popular vote.

Nearly 46 years to the day after a riot at New York’s Stonewall Inn ushered in the modern gay rights movement, the decision appears to have settled one of the major civil rights fights of this era. The language of Justice Anthony Kennedy’s opinion spoke eloquently of the most fundamental values of family, love and liberty.

“No union is more profound than marriage, for it embodies the highest ideals of love, fidelity, devotion, sacrifice and family,” Kennedy wrote. “In forming a marital union, two people become something greater than they once were.”

“Their hope,” Kennedy continued, “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… same-sex couples should be able to exercise the right to marry in all states.”

President Barack Obama was pleased with the decision of the Court. “This ruling is a victory for America. This decision affirms what millions of Americans already believe in their hearts. When all Americans are truly treated as equal, we are more free.”

It wasn’t until 2012 that the president declared that same-sex couples should be given the right to marry. In fact, last year he said that the U.S. Constitution should have given that right to them in the first place. After the ruling was made, there were celebrations occurring on the sidewalk outside of the Supreme Court. LGBT supporters arrived early and brought their rainbow-colored flags along with them.

The first legally recognized same-sex marriages in the U.S. occurred approximately 11 years ago. The ability for same-sex couples to marry came as a result of a Massachusetts state supreme court decision. Jim Obergefell became the face of the same-sex marriage fight when he sought to have his name put on the death certificate of his husband as the surviving spouse. The Massachusetts court ruled in Obergefell v. Hodges that he had the Constitution gave him to right to marry someone of the same sex. This decision opened the doors for others to challenge similar laws in other states and at the federal level.

Obergefell was obviously elated by the decision. “Today’s ruling from the Supreme Court affirms what millions across the country already know to be true in our hearts: that our love is equal,” Obergefell told The Advocate. “It is my hope that the term gay marriage will soon be a thing of the past, that from this day forward it will be, simply, marriage,” he added.

The United States is now the 21st country to legalize same-sex marriages worldwide. Married couples are now able to enjoy the same benefits that heterosexual couples have and their names will be officially recognized in documents such as birth and death certificates.

Photo Credit: Wikipedia Commons

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