Supreme Court says same-sex couples have right to marry in all 50 states

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While there are many people supporting the Supreme Court's ruling, there were just as many speaking out against it (KTRK)

The Supreme Court declared Friday that same-sex 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.

PHOTOS: Reactions to U.S. Supreme Court ruling on same-sex marriage


Gay rights supporters cheered, danced and wept outside the court when the decision was announced.

MORE: Social media reaction to the same-sex marriage ruling.

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

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 more liberal justices.

The stories of the people asking for the right to marry "reveal that they seek not to denigrate marriage but rather to live their lives, or honor their spouses' memory, joined by its bond," Kennedy said.

The four dissenting justices each filed a separate opinion explaining their views, but they agreed that states and their voters should have been left with the power to decide who can marry.

"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.

"If you are among the many Americans - of whatever sexual orientation - who favor expanding same-sex marriage, by all means celebrate today's decision," Roberts said. "But do not celebrate the Constitution. It had nothing to do with it."

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

President Barack Obama welcomed the decision via Twitter, calling it "a big step in our march toward equality."

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 Justice Department's decision to stop defending the federal anti-marriage law in 2011 was an important moment for gay rights, and Obama declared his support for same-sex marriage in 2012.

The Supreme Court declared Friday that same-sex 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.

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 more liberal 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.

Justice Antonin Scalia said he is not concerned so much about same-sex marriage, but about "this court's threat to American democracy." 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 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.

On Friday afternoon, Daniel Cardinal DiNardo of the Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston issued a statement in response to the ruling:

    The Supreme Court's narrow majority decision today is gravely unjust as it attempts to change the nature of marriage. Mandating marriage redefinition across the country is a tragic error harming the common good and the most vulnerable among us. The ruling does not and cannot change what marriage really is. No one and no court can make what is false true.

    Marriage is a perennial institution, with deep roots in who we are and in our nation's culture and laws. Marriage is and always will be the union between one man and one woman. This truth is inseparable from the duty to honor the God-given dignity of every human person, to protect the beautiful truth of marriage, which concerns the essential well-being of the nation, especially children. Children have a basic right, wherever possible, to know and be loved by their mother and father together. The law has a duty to support every child in this most basic right.

    With renewed purpose, we call upon all people of good will to promote and defend marriage as the union of one man and one woman for life. The redefinition of legal marriage to include any other type of relationship has serious consequences, especially for religious freedom.

    Our Church will continue its efforts to support public policy issues, including a version of the marriage and religious freedom act, which would prohibit the government from discriminating against those who act in accordance with a religious belief or moral conviction that marriage is the union between a man and woman.

    I encourage the faithful of the Archdiocese to move forward with faith, hope, and love: faith in the unchanging truth about marriage, hope that these truths will once again prevail in our society, and love for all our neighbors. Together, we must increase our efforts to strengthen marriages and families and rebuild a marriage culture. And, we shall continue to reach out with love and support to all people, including those who experience same-sex attraction knowing that all people are loved by God and are called to love Him.


The Associated Press contributed to this report
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