WASHINGTON — The Supreme Court has declared that same-sex couples have a right to marry anywhere in the United States.
Gay and lesbian couples already can marry in 36 states and the District of Columbia. The court’s 5-4 ruling means the remaining 14 states, in the South and Midwest, will have to stop enforcing their bans on same-sex marriage.
The outcome is the culmination of two decades of Supreme Court litigation over marriage, and gay rights generally.
“No union is more profound than marriage,” wrote Justice Anthony Kennedy, joined by the court’s four more liberal justices.
President Barack Obama says the Supreme Court’s ruling giving same-sex couples the right to marry nationwide represents a day when justice “arrives like a thunderbolt.”
The president, in a Rose Garden statement, said the court ruling has “made our union a little more perfect.”
It was not until 2012 that Obama announced his own support for gay marriage. Now, he says, the court ruling will end the patchwork of laws on marriage across the country and the uncertainty that they create for same-sex couples.
Immediately after the ruling, Obama tweeted: “Today is a big step in our march toward equality. Gay and lesbian couples now have the right to marry, just like anyone else. #LoveWins”
WATCH: President Obama’s statement on same-sex marriage ruling.
Pres. Obama's statement on gay marriage rulingPresident Barack Obama says the Supreme Court's ruling giving same-sex couples the right to marry nationwide represents a day when justice "arrives like a thunderbolt." The president, in a Rose Garden statement, said the court ruling has "made our union a little more perfect."
The final paragraph of the landmark Supreme Court ruling on Friday that declared that same-sex couples have a right to marry anywhere in the United States, written by Justice Anthony Kennedy:
“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. They ask for equal dignity in the eyes of the law. The Constitution grants them that right.”
The ruling will not take effect immediately because the court gives the losing side roughly three weeks to ask for reconsideration. But some state officials and county clerks might decide there is little risk in issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples.
The cases before the court involved laws from several states that define marriage as the union of a man and a woman. Those states have not allowed same-sex couples to marry within their borders and they also have refused to recognize valid marriages from elsewhere.
Just two years ago, the Supreme Court struck down part of the federal anti-gay marriage law that denied a range of government benefits to legally married same-sex couples.
The decision in United States v. Windsor did not address the validity of state marriage bans, but courts across the country, with few exceptions, said its logic compelled them to invalidate state laws that prohibited gay and lesbian couples from marrying.
The number of states allowing same-sex marriage has grown rapidly. As recently as October, just over one-third of the states permitted same-sex marriage.
There are an estimated 390,000 married same-sex couples in the United States, according to Williams Institute at the University of California, Los Angeles, which tracks the demographics of gay and lesbian Americans. Another 70,000 couples living in states that do not currently permit them to wed would get married in the next three years, the institute says. Roughly 1 million same-sex couples, married and unmarried, live together in the United States, the institute says.
The Obama administration backed the right of same-sex couples to marry. The Justice Department’s decision to stop defending the federal anti-marriage law in 2011 was an important moment for gay rights and President Barack Obama declared his support for same-sex marriage in 2012.
Story from The Associated Press.
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