Marriage equality supporters celebrate outside the Supreme Court (Pic: HRC)
In a sweeping and historic ruling, the US Supreme Court today recognised that gay and lesbian couples are entitled to “the highest ideals of love, fidelity, devotion, sacrifice and family.”
On Friday, five out of nine of the court’s justices ruled that state bans on marriage equality in the US are unconstitutional—and that the fundamental right to marriage is a fundamental right for all.
“No union is more profound than marriage,” wrote Justice Anthony Kennedy in his moving majority opinion.
“As some of the petitioners in these cases demonstrate, marriage embodies a love that may endure even past death.
“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,” he said.
The court’s ruling effectively extends the right to same-sex marriage across all fifty US states.
The Human Rights Campaign (HRC), America’s leading LGBT rights organisation, said the decision represents a clear mandate for governors, state attorneys general and officials everywhere to cease their attempts to uphold discriminatory same-sex marriage bans.
It called on state officials across the country to “act swiftly to ensure that every obstacle to obtaining a marriage license is removed.”
HRC president Chad Griffin insisted that, “To do anything less is a shameful attempt to cement their state on the wrong side of history.”
Jim Obergefell, who took his case against the state of Ohio to the Supreme Court to have his marriage to husband John Arthur recognised, said the ruling was “a profound vindication — a victory I’m proud to share with countless more couples across the country.”
Obergefell received a phone call from President Obama, who offered his personal congratulations.
“I’m really proud of you,” Obama said. “Just know that not only have you been a great example to people but you’re bringing about a lasting change in this country. It’s pretty rare when that happens, so I couldn’t be prouder of you and your husband.”
Jim Obergefell talks to President Obama after the ruling was issued (Pic: HRC)
Griffin noted that, despite the ruling, many members of the country’s LGBT community still face discriminatory laws.
“The time has come in this country for comprehensive federal LGBT non-discrimination protections,” he said. “We now have to work harder than ever before to make sure LGBT Americans cannot be fired, evicted or denied services simply on the basis of the marriage license that they fought so hard to achieve.”
Jessica Stern, Executive Director of the International Gay & Lesbian Human Rights Commission, described Friday as “an amazing day,” but noted that nearly 80 countries still criminalise same-sex intimacy and countless prohibit so-called “cross-dressing.” She urged LGBT Americans to “join the global movement to fight intolerance and affirm fundamental dignity.”
The US has now become one of 21 nations around the world that currently recognise the freedom to marry for same-sex couples.