Get ready for a nationwide surge in weddings: The Supreme Court ruled on Friday that same-sex couples have the same right to marriage as different-sex couples. The anxiously awaited decision is a victory for equal rights that caps off decades of activism by men and women from every state. In a 5-4 decision, the court ruled that states must issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples, and that they must recognize same-sex marriages performed in other parts of the country. Justice Anthony Kennedy, who is widely known as the key swing vote in major cases, wrote the majority opinion.
The decision in Obergefell v. Hodges expands on the 2013 ruling that struck down the federal Defense Of Marriage Act but still left states to maintain their own bans until this challenge made its way through the courts. Jim Obergefell married John Arthur, his partner of 20 years, shortly before Arthur died of cancer in 2013. Obergefell has been fighting since then to make the state of Ohio legally recognize him as Arthur's widower. But, Ohio was one of 30 states that passed a constitutional amendment that restricted marriage to one man and one woman. Bans on same-sex marriage have fallen quickly in the two years since the end of DOMA, but couples in 13 states were still blocked from having legal ceremonies — until today. Now, joyous couples and their friends and family are packing the court steps to celebrate. Across the country, others who have been waiting for the decision can finally put their wedding plans into action.
Still, in southern states such as Alabama and Florida, judges and clerks have fought court orders to issue marriage licenses — so some difficulties may remain for would-be spouses. Despite these pockets of potential resistance, today's decision is an undeniable sign of progress. LGBTQ activists are also already working to secure more protections for members of the trans community, who are still deeply marginalized, even in states that have long allowed same-sex marriage. Despite the work that still needs to be done to achieve true equality, today is a great day for same-sex couples and their loved ones. The closing paragraph of Justice Kennedy's opinion sums it up: “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 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.” This is a breaking story that will be updated as more information becomes available.