Same-sex couples have a Constitutional right to marry under the Fourteenth Amendment, the United States Supreme Court ruled in an historic 5-4 decision Thursday, with Justice Anthony Kennedy writing for the majority. The decision also overturns states’ existing marriage bans.
“No union is more profound than marriage, for it embodies the highest ideals of love, fidelity, devotion, sacrifice, and family. [The petitioners] ask for equal dignity in the eyes of the law. The Constitution grants them that right,” Kennedy wrote.
As expected, Kennedy was joined by Justices Ginsburg, Breyer, Sotomayor and Kagan. Chief Justice John Roberts, considered a wild card in the case, wrote a dissent joined by Justices Scalia, Thomas, and Alito, who each filed dissents of their own.
“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,” Roberts said, making the rare decision to read part of his opinion from the bench.
The case, Obergefell v. Hodges, was named for lead plaintiff Jim Obergefell, an Ohio man who sued the state because it wouldn’t list him as a surviving spouse on his husband’s death certificate. The two had been married in Maryland before his husband, John, died of ALS. (Hodges is the director of the Ohio Department of Health.)
The combined case also included plaintiffs from three other states that don’t currently recognize same-sex marriages: Kentucky, Michigan, and Tennessee. The Sixth Circuit upheld all four states’ gay marriage bans back in November.
The Court is still due to announce rulings on mandatory minimums for violent gun offenders, power plant pollution, lethal injection drugs, and gerrymandering.
[Photo: AP Images]