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Supreme Court Rules in Favor of Same-Sex Marriage, Now Legal Across Country

The Supreme Court issued a ruling Friday morning legalizing same-sex marriage in all 50 states. The 5-4 decision found that the Constitution’s guarantees of due process and equal protection under the law overturns all gay-marriage bans across the country.

The court’s four liberal justices (Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Steven Breyer, Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan) were joined by Anthony Kennedy, who wrote the majority opinion. In dissent were justices Antonin Scalia, Clarence Thomas, John Roberts and Samuel Alito. The case, known as Obergefell v. Hodges, struck down laws blocking gays from marrying in Kentucky, Michigan, Ohio and Tennessee.

“[The plaintiffs] ask for equal dignity in the eyes of the law. The Constitution grants them that right,” wrote Justice Kennedy at the end of a longer passage in which he described how gay couples do not want to be excluded from the fundamental rights the majority of the country already shares. He wrote:

No union is more profound than marriage, for it embodies the highest ideals of love, fidelity, devotion, sacrifice, and family. In forming a marital union, two people become something greater than once they were. As some of the petitioners in these cases demonstrate, marriage embodies a love that may endure even past death. 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. Their hope is not to be condemned to live in loneliness, excluded from one of civilization’s oldest institutions.

All four dissenting justices wrote opinions. Roberts emphasized that he thought the court should not usurp the power of legislatures, saying, “Whether same-sex marriage is a good idea should be of no concern to us. Under the Constitution, judges have power to say what the law is, not what it should be.”

It is a landmark victory for the gay-rights movement, particularly for same-sex couples in states that had passed laws preventing them from marrying and receiving the legal benefits that such a relationship ensures. Recently, public opinion has been shifting rapidly in favor of allowing gays to marry. This decision is by far the biggest win for supporters of gay marriage, many of whom would likely not have thought this possible even just a decade ago.

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