Supreme Court: States must license and recognize licenses of marriages for same-sex couples

In a widely expected yet stunning victory for LGBT people nationally, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled today (June 26) that state bans on marriage for same-sex couples are unconstitutional. The decision requires states to both issue marriage licenses to couples and to recognize marriage licenses obtained in other states by same-sex couples.

The 5 to 4 decision, authored by Justice Anthony Kennedy, strikes down bans that have been enforced in 13 states and is expected to secure the lower court decisions that struck down bans in nine other states.

Kennedy was joined in the decision by the court’s four more liberal justices: Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Stephen Breyer, Sonia Sotomayor, and Elena Kagan.

Chief Justice John Roberts led the dissent, joined by Justices Antonin Scalia, Clarence Thomas, and Samuel Alito.

Kennedy wrote that “the right to marry is a fundamental right inherent in the liberty of the person, and under the Due Process and Equal Protection Clauses of the Fourteenth Amendment couples of the same-sex may not be deprived of that right and that liberty.”

“The Court now holds that same-sex couples may exercise the fundamental right to marry. No longer may this liberty be denied to them. “

LGBT organizations all over the country began issuing press releases declaring the decision “historic,” “amazing,” and “landmark.”

Rallies planned in advance are due to take place on the day the decision, including outside New York City’s historic Stonewall Inn at 6 p.m.

Dissenting, Chief Justice Roberts said that “a State’s decision to maintain the meaning of marriage that has persisted in every culture throughout human history can hardly be called irrational.”

“In short, our Constitution does not enact any one theory of marriage,” wrote Roberts. “The people of a State are free to expand marriage to include same-sex couples, or to retain the historic definition.”

The focus could now shifts back to the states, where efforts have been underway for some time by some to find a way to defy the Supreme Court decision, which was widely predicted. The North Carolina legislature passed a bill to let public officials who issue marriage licenses and can conduct ceremonies to refuse to administer the paperwork or perform the ceremony by claiming “sincerely held religious objections.” The governor vetoed the measure but on June 11, the legislature overrode the veto.

In Arkansas, the state supreme court ordered marriage clerks to stop issuing licenses to same-sex couples, but on June 9, a state judge declared that more than 500 licenses issued to same-sex couples before the state supreme court order was issued would be considered valid. The Texas Supreme Court has taken a similar tact.


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