Today, history has been made. The Supreme Court in the USA has tossed aside bans and instead ruled in favour of gay marriage. It’s a historic decision bringing marriage equality to all 50 states – it is now legal to be ‘gay married’ in America!
Barack Obama describes the decision as “justice that arrives like a thunderbolt” sending a strong message to the 14 US states that have previously opposed marriage equality; they will now have to drop their bans on same-sex unions.
The court decided by 5-4 that the US constitution’s guarantees of equal protection under the law mean states cannot ban same-sex marriages.
US President Barack Obama said:
“This ruling is a victory for America, this decision affirms what millions of Americans already believe in their hearts: when all Americans are treated as equal, we are all more free.”
Gay and lesbian couples could already marry in 36 states and the District of Columbia however todays news marks a rapid social shift in the country.
The remaining 14 states in the South and Midwest will now have to stop enforcing their bans on same-sex marriage.
Hundreds of activists celebrated the decision outside court, chanting: “Love has won!”
Four states – Michigan, Ohio, Tennessee and Kentucky – were defending their bans on such nuptials in the case.
Chief Justice John Roberts and Justices Antonin Scalia, Samuel Alito and Clarence Thomas dissented.
Justices Anthony Kennedy, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Elena Kagan, Stephen Breyer and Sonia Sotomayor ruled in favour.
The case was known as Obergefell v Hodges, after James Obergefell, who wanted his name on his terminally ill husband’s death certificate.
But he was refused by officials in Ohio, which banned gay marriage.
Mr Obergefell said outside court he hoped the ruling would remove the stigma faced by LGBT people.
His spouse, John Arthur, died from the neurodegenerative disease ALS.
“I love you,” said the widower, holding up a picture of his late husband. “This is for you, John.”
Writing for the majority, Justice Kennedy, a former altar boy, said: “As some of the petitioners in these cases demonstrate, marriage embodies a love that may endure even past death.
“Their hope is not to be condemned to live in loneliness, excluded from one of civilisation’s oldest institutions.
“They ask for equal dignity in the eyes of the law, The Constitution grants them that right.”
But dissenting Justice Scalia said the august court had descended from “disciplined legal reasoning” to the “mystical aphorisms of the fortune cookie”.
Chief Justice Roberts wrote: “Whether same-sex marriage is a good idea should be of no concern to us.”
Republican political leaders were also critical of the ruling.
House of Representatives Speaker John Boehner said: “I believe that marriage is a sacred vow between one man and one woman.”
White House hopeful Bobby Jindal predicted an “all-out assault against the religious freedom rights of Christians who disagree”.
It is the latest and ultimate ruling by America’s highest court in favour of gay marriage.
In a landmark 2013 ruling, the justices said the federal government must recognise gay unions performed in states.
The Defense of Marriage Act decision meant that people in same-sex marriages could no longer be denied government benefits.
Polls show a majority of Americans support same-sex marriage, which first became legal in the US in Massachusetts in 2004.