WASHINGTON, D.C. (June 26, 2015) – The Supreme Court issued a landmark ruling Friday making same-sex marriage legal in the U.S.
The high court says same-sex couples have right to marry in all 50 states. The 5-4 vote overturns bans on same-sex marriage in 14 states where such bans are in place.
Justice Anthony Kennedy delivered the court’s opinion, with justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Sonia Sotomayor, Elena Kagan and Stephen Breyer agreeing in the case. Chief Justice John Roberts and justices Samuel Alito, Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas dissented.
From Kennedy’s opinion:
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.
Roberts acknowledged states have revised their laws to allow same-sex marriage, but didn’t believe it was the court’s duty to decide for the states:
But this Court is not a legislature. Whether same-sex marriage is a good idea should be of no concern to us. Under the Constitution, judges have power to say what the law is, not what it should be… Although the policy arguments for extending marriage to same-sex couples may be compelling, the legal arguments for requiring such an extension are not. The fundamental right to marry does not include a right to make a State change its definition of marriage.
The relevant cases were argued before the court earlier this year. Opponents arguing in favor of state bans on same-sex marriage said the case was not about how to define marriage, but rather who gets to make that decision. Still, the issue had to be decided by the Supreme Court: several lower courts overturned state bans on same-sex marriage, including Indiana’s law. A federal appeals court later ruled in favor of state bans, suggesting it was for the political process, not the courts, to decide.
Same-sex marriage was already legal in Indiana after the high court let the ruling from a lower appeals court stand. Since Friday’s ruling involves a constitutional issue–namely the equal protection clause in the Fourteenth Amendment–other states must recognize same-sex unions from couples married in Indiana.
The Supreme Court’s ruling comes almost a year after the lower court’s decision set off a flurry of same-sex marriages in Indiana.