Supreme Court Rules Gay Marriage Bans Unconstitutional

Associated Press
A gay-marriage supporter outside the Supreme Court on Friday

The nine justices examined if individual states have the right to ban gay marriage and if states must recognize gay marriages granted in other states.

The Supreme Court has officially said its last word on gay marriage, ruling on Friday that the 14th Amendment requires individual states to license same-sex marriages.

The nine justices reviewed an appellate court's decision to uphold gay marriage bans in Michigan, Kentucky, Ohio and Tennessee. In Obergefell v. Hodges, the high court reviewed same sex marriage bans and, additionally, if states must recognize gay marriages granted in other states.

The landmark ruling was a 5-4 decision with the majority opinion written by Justice Anthony Kennedy, who declared, "From their beginning to their most recent page, the annals of human history reveal the transcendent importance of marriage."

He addresses James Obergefell, the man who came forward in Ohio, to challenge state laws that prohibited his union with John Arthur. The two have known each other over two decades. Arthur died, and Obergefell aimed to be listed as the surviving spouse on Arthur's death certificate. Although the two were never able to legally wed, the couple — along with other petitioners like April DeBoer and partner Jayne Rowse as well as Ijpe DeKoe and partner Thomas Kostura  have now won an historic victory that will be celebrated by same-sex couples throughout the nation.

"Far from seeking to devalue marriage, the petitioners seek it for themselves because of their respect — and need — for its privileges and responsibilities," Kennedy writes. "And their immutable nature dictates that same-sex marriage is their only real path to this profound commitment."

Along with Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Elena Kagan, Stephen Breyer and Sonia Sotomayor, Kennedy concludes that same-sex marriage is a fundamental right deriving from "four principles and traditions" including individual autonomy, commitment, the safeguarding of children and families and social order.

The opinion was read from the bench, followed by each of the dissents, including one from Chief Justice John Roberts who expressed the opinion that if same sex marriage was to come, it should have been through a democratic process, and Justice Antonin Scalia with a typical blistering dissent that cried for "no social transformation without representation."

Read the full opinions here.

Today's victory for same sex couples comes on the anniversary of two of the Supreme Court's biggest gay rights decisions. On June 26, 2003, the high court invalidated a Texas law that prohibited persons of the same sex from engaging in sexual conduct with each other. On June 26, 2013, the high court invalidated the Defense of Marriage Act. Both rulings, also by Kennedy, paved the path to the big one announced today.

Prior to the ruling, 37 states and Washington, D.C. ruled gay marriage to be legal. Now, the rainbow flag flies throughout the nation.