US Supreme Court ex­tends same-sex mar­riage na­tion­wide


The United States Supreme Court de­clared Fri­day that same­sex cou­ples have a right to marry any­where in the United States.

Gay and les­bian cou­ples al­ready could marry in 36 states and the Dis­trict of Columbia. The court’s 5-4 rul­ing means the re­main­ing 14 states, in the South and Mid­west, will have to stop en­forc­ing their bans on same-sex mar­riage.

The out­come is the cul­mi­na­tion of two decades of Supreme Court lit­i­ga­tion over mar­riage, and gay rights gen­er­ally.

As­so­ciate Jus­tice An­thony Kennedy wrote the ma­jor­ity opin­ion, just as he did in the court’s pre­vi­ous three ma­jor gay rights cases dat­ing back to 1996. It came on the an­niver­sary of two of those ear­lier de­ci­sions.

“No union is more pro­found than mar­riage,” Kennedy wrote, joined by the court’s four lib­er­al­lean­ing jus­tices.

The four dis­sent­ing jus­tices each filed a sep­a­rate opin­ion ex­plain­ing their views.

“But this court is not a leg­is­la­ture. Whether same-sex mar­riage is a good idea should be of no con­cern to us,” Chief Jus­tice John Roberts wrote in dis­sent. Roberts read a sum­mary of his dis­sent from the bench, the first time he has done so in nearly 10 years as chief jus­tice.

As­so­ciate Jus­tice An­tonin Scalia said he is not con­cerned so much about same-sex mar­riage, but about “this court’s threat to Amer­i­can democ­racy.” As­so­ciate jus­tices Sa­muel Al­ito and Clarence Thomas also dis­sented.

The rul­ing will not take ef­fect im­me­di­ately be­cause the court gives the los­ing side roughly three weeks to ask for re­con­sid­er­a­tion. But some state of­fi­cials and county clerks might de­cide there is lit­tle risk in is­su­ing mar­riage li­censes to same-sex cou­ples.

The cases be­fore the court in­volved laws from Ken­tucky, Michigan, Ohio and Ten­nessee that de­fine mar­riage as the union of a man and a woman. Those states have not al­lowed same-sex cou­ples to marry within their borders and they also have re­fused to rec­og­nize valid mar­riages from else­where.

Just two years ago, the Supreme Court struck down part of the fed­eral anti-gay mar­riage law that de­nied a range of gov­ern­ment ben­e­fits to legally mar­ried same-sex cou­ples.

The de­ci­sion in United States v. Wind­sor did not ad­dress the va­lid­ity of state mar­riage bans, but courts across the coun­try, with few ex­cep­tions, said its logic com­pelled them to in­val­i­date state laws that pro­hib­ited gay and les­bian cou­ples from mar­ry­ing.

The num­ber of states al­low­ing same-sex mar­riage has grown rapidly. As re­cently as Oc­to­ber, just over one-third of the states per­mit­ted same-sex mar­riage.

There are an es­ti­mated 390,000 mar­ried same-sex cou­ples in the United States, ac­cord­ing to UCLA’s Wil­liams In­sti­tute, which tracks the de­mo­graph­ics of gay and les­bian Amer­i­cans. Another 70,000 cou­ples liv­ing in states that do not cur­rently per­mit them to wed would get mar­ried in the next three years, the in­sti­tute says. Roughly 1 mil­lion same-sex cou­ples, mar­ried and un­mar­ried, live to­gether in the United States, the in­sti­tute says.

The Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion backed the right of same- sex cou­ples to marry. The U. S. Jus­tice Depart­ment’s de­ci­sion to stop de­fend­ing the fed­eral anti- mar­riage law in 2011 was an im­por­tant mo­ment for gay rights and Pres­i­dent Barack Obama de­clared his sup­port for same- sex mar­riage in 2012.


Car­los McKnight of Washington waves a flag in sup­port of gay mar­riage out­side of the U.S. Supreme Court in Washington, D.C., Fri­day June 26.

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