The wait is over—marriage equality has finally arrived in America.
The United States Supreme Court declared today marriage is blind to sexual orientation, holding in Obergefell v. Hodges that “same-sex couples may exercise the fundamental right to marry” after finding state bans on same-sex marriage unconstitutional under the Fourteenth Amendment of the United States Constitution.
Justice Anthony Kennedy, who has become the Court’s mouthpiece for the gay rights movement, spoke for the Court in his 5-4 majority opinion:
“The right to marry is a fundamental right inherent in the liberty of the person, and under the Due Process and Equal Protection Clauses of the Fourteenth Amendment couples of the same-sex may not be deprived of that right and that liberty.”
The 13 states still forbidding same-sex marriages at the time of the decision will join the other 37 states in licensing marriages to same-sex couples. By declaring the state statutes and constitutional amendments banning same-sex marriage unconstitutional, the United States became the 21st country in the world to grant marriage equality.
The path to marriage equality in America was paved by a number of Supreme Court cases: Loving v. Virginia (holding that interracial couples have the right to marriage)(1967), Romer v. Evans (striking down an anti-gay state constitutional amendment)(1996), Lawrence v. Texas (declaring a state statute criminalizing same-sex sexual conduct unconstitutional)(2003), and United States v. Windsor (finding that Section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act was unconstitutional)(2013).
Justice Kennedy, who also penned the Lawrence, Romer, and Windsor opinions, closed his decision in Obergefell with a precedent-setting proclamation in this paramount case:
“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 judgment of the Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit is reversed.
It is so ordered.”
The Obergefell decision comes after thousands of gay Americans have patiently waited to consummate their love, forge a dignified bond with their partner, and earn equal protection under the laws. Opening marriage to same-sex couples allows gay Americans to receive benefits such as hospital visitation, the choice of filing a joint tax return, family health coverage, among many others.
Most importantly, gay unions will no longer be treated as second-class relationships. No longer will children of same-sex couples have to wonder about the relationship status of their parents—they can now be children of a legally married couple.
Today’s statement by our nation’s highest court sends a reverberating message of love and acceptance for gay Americans across the 50 states. The Obergefell decision will be remembered as a landmark day for equality in America. Love has won.