Marriage equality supporters throughout the United States – and indeed around the world – are celebrating the Supreme Court’s landmark decision allowing same-sex couples to marry nationwide.
The 5-4 ruling established a new civil right and handed gay rights advocates an historic victory. It came nearly 46 years to the day after a riot at New York’s Stonewall Inn ushered in the modern gay rights movement.
The justices found that, under the 14th Amendment, all states must issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples and recognise same-sex unions that have been legally performed in other states.
In the majority decision, they wrote that the right to marriage is an inherent aspect of individual autonomy, since “decisions about marriage are among the most intimate that an individual can make”.
They also said gay Americans have a right to “intimate association” beyond merely freedom from laws that ban homosexuality.
Extending the right to marry protects families and “without the recognition, stability, and predictability marriage offers, children suffer the stigma of knowing their families are somehow lesser,” the justices wrote.
Justice Anthony Kennedy spoke of the most fundamental values of family, love and liberty.
“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.
“Their hope is not to be condemned to live in loneliness, excluded from one of civilisation’s oldest institutions. They ask for equal dignity in the eyes of the law. The Constitution grants them that right.”
The US is the 21st country to legalise same-sex marriage and married same-sex couples will now enjoy the same legal rights and benefits as married heterosexual couples nationwide and will be recognised on official documents such as birth and death certificates.
Hundreds of same-sex marriage supporters flooded the plaza and sidewalk in front of the Supreme Court to celebrate the ruling, proudly waving rainbow flags and banners with the Human Rights Campaign’s equal sign, which have come to represent the gay rights movement.
In an emotional moment, supporters sang the national anthem, clapping wildly after singing that the US is “the land of the free”.