SAME-SEX MARRIAGE LEGAL NATIONWIDE
Washington (CNN)11:14 a.m. update: President Barack Obama on Friday morning called Jim Obergefell, the lead plaintiff in the Supreme Court’s same-sex marriage ruling, while he and his supporters celebrated the ruling outside the court.
“I just wanted to say congratulations,” Obama said as CNN broadcast his warm words to Obergefell over speakerphone. He added: “Your leadership on this has changed the country.”
In a landmark opinion, the Supreme Court ruled Friday that states cannot ban same-sex marriage, establishing a new civil right and handing gay rights advocates a victory that until very recently would have seemed unthinkable.
The 5-4 ruling had Justice Anthony Kennedy writing for the majority with the four liberal justices. Each of the four conservative justices wrote their own dissent.
The far-reaching decision settles one of the major civil rights fights of this era — one that has rapidly evolved in the minds of the American public and its leaders, including President Barack Obama. He struggled publicly with the issue and ultimately embraced same-sex marriage in the months before his 2012 re-election.
“No union is more profound than marriage, for it embodies the highest ideals of love, fidelity, devotion, sacrifice and family,” Kennedy wrote. “In forming a marital union, two people become something greater than they once were.”
In a dissent, Justice Antonin Scalia blasted the Court’s “threat to American democracy.”
“The substance of today’s decree is not of immense personal importance to me,” he wrote. “But what really astounds is the hubris reflected in today’s judicial Putsch.”
Chief Justice John Roberts wrote that the decision had “nothing to do with the Constitution.
“If you are among the many Americans—of whatever sexual orientation—who favor expanding same-sex marriage, by all means celebrate today’s decision. Celebrate the achievement of a desired goal,” he wrote. “Celebrate the opportunity for a new expression of commitment to a partner. Celebrate the availability of new benefits. But do not celebrate the Constitution. It had nothing to do with it.”
The U.S. is now the 21st country to legalize same-sex marriage nationwide. 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.
The decision affirmed growing public support in the U.S. for gay marriage, with about two-thirds of Americans now in favor. And it comes as gay rights groups have seen gay marriage bans fall rapidly in recent years, with the number of states allowing gay marriage swelling most recently to 37 — that is, until this ruling.
There were two questions before the Court, the first asked whether states could ban same sex marriage, the second asked whether states had to recognize lawful marriages performed out of state.
The relevant cases were argued earlier this year. Attorney John Bursch, serving as Michigan’s Special Assistant Attorney General, defended four states’ bans on gay marriage before the Court, arguing that the case was not about how to define marriage, but rather about who gets to decide the question.
The case came before the Supreme Court after several lower courts overturned state bans on gay marriage. A federal appeals court had previously ruled in favor of the state bans, with Judge Jeffrey Sutton of the Sixth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals writing a majority opinion in line with the rationale that the issue should be decided through the political process, not the courts.
Fourteen couples and two widowers challenged the bans. Attorneys Mary Bonauto and Doug Hallward-Driemeier presented their case before the Court, arguing that the freedom to marry is a fundamental right for all people and should not be left to popular vote.