Today, the U.S. Supreme Court passed down its ruling on the question of same-sex marriage: By a 5-4 decision, states are required to license same-sex marriages and to honor marriages of same-sex couples from other states. Their ruling in Obergfell v. Hodges calls on the Fourteenth Amendment’s preservation of fundamental liberties and equal protection for all citizens.
Justice Kennedy delivered the opinion, joined by justices Ginsberg, Breyer, Sotomayor, and Kagan, saying:
(1) The history of marriage as a union between two persons of the opposite sex marks the beginning of these cases. To the respondents, it would demean a timeless institution if marriage were extended to same-sex couples. But the petitioners, far from seeking to devalue marriage, seek it for themselves because of their respect — and need — for its privileges and responsibilities, as illustrated by the petitioners’ own experiences.
(2) The history of marriage is one of both continuity and change. Changes, such as the decline of arranged marriages and the abandonment of the law of coverture, have worked deep transformations in the structure of marriage, affecting aspects of marriage once viewed as essential. These new insights have strengthened, not weakened, the institution. Changed understandings of marriage are characteristic of a Nation where new dimensions of freedom become apparent to new generations.
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.
The judgment of the Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit is reversed.
Update: In Georgia, Fulton County (Atlanta area) will be holding a mass wedding ceremony at 1:00 Eastern. The probate court there began issuing licenses minutes after the ruling came in.
In Alabama, marriage licenses are being issued as well. Earlier this year, U.S. District Judge Callie Granade ruled that the state’s same-sex marriage ban was unconstitutional but delayed it from taking effect pending the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling on the matter. Now that it’s official, the Jefferson County (Birmingham area) probate court has begun issuing marriage licenses, and couples are preparing to be married all over town. Couples who married during Alabama’s brief period of legality in February are celebrating that their marriages are now officially and unambiguously legal.
In Texas, Travis County (Austin area) clerks began issuing licenses immediately after the decision (in contradiction of orders from the state Attorney General) and will be offering extended office hours through July 4 to accommodate demand. “Decision Day” events are being held across the state.