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U.S. Supreme Court legalizes same-sex marriage

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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 14th Amendment.
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 same-sex couples.
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 Garden.

US Supreme Court Gay Marriage Texas
Aixa Adame, left, and Lacey Darcy 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)

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.”

“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).

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.

The top court ruled it would be a violation of the amendment to grant marriage rights only to heterosexual couples.

“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 Obergefell.

“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. 

Supreme Court Gay Marriage The Plaintiffs
‘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.

US-Supreme Court-Gay Marriage Mississippi
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)

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 interracial marriages.

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.

Credits:  With files from Reuters and The Associated Press.

English: Protestors at the "Day of cats&q...
English: Protestors at the “Day of cats” rally marched up Market St in downtown San Francisco following the California Supreme Court ruling. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)