On June 26th 2015, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled 5-4 that it is legal for all Americans, no matter their gender or sexual orientation, to marry the people they love. The decision is a historic victory for gay rights activists who have fought for years in the lower courts. Thirty-seven states and the District of Columbia already recognized marriage equality. The remaining 13 states had banned these unions, even as public support reached record levels nationwide.

The justices found that, under the 14th Amendment, states must issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples and recognize same-sex unions that have been legally performed in other states. Justice Anthony Kennedy delivered the majority opinion and was joined by Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Elena Kagan, Stephen Breyer and Sonia Sotomayor.

The justices outlined several reasons same-sex marriage should be allowed. They wrote that the right to marriage is an inherent aspect of individual autonomy, since “decisions about marriage are among the most intimate that an individual can make.” They also said gay Americans have a right to “intimate association” beyond merely freedom from laws that ban homosexuality.

Extending the right to marry protects families and “without the recognition, stability, and predictability marriage offers, children suffer the stigma of knowing their families are somehow lesser,” the justices wrote. The majority concluded that the right for same-sex couples to marry is protected under the 14th Amendment, citing the clauses that guarantee equal protection and due process.

The U.S. is now the 21st country to legalize same-sex marriage nationwide, including territories. Married same-sex couples will now enjoy the same legal rights and benefits as married heterosexual couples nationwide and will be recognized on official documents such as birth and death certificates.

Advertisements