In a momentous day for civil rights, the Supreme Court ruled Friday morning that “same-sex couples may exercise the fundamental right to marry” in all 50 states.
As a matter of law, the decision builds on Loving v. Virginia — the 1967 case overturning state bans on interracial marriage — extending the same judicial logic to same-sex unions. The court ruled that state same-sex marriage bans are not only unconstitutional, but hateful: “It demeans gays and lesbians for the State to lock them out of a central institution of the Nation’s society.”
In front of the Supreme Court this morning, marriage equality activists outnumbered Christian reactionaries hundreds to one. They held balloons spelling out CHOOSE LOVE, and signs like: “Anthony Kennedy is My Spirit Animal.” Cries of joy rang out when the decision was announced. A gay men’s chorus began to sing.
The 5-4 decision was written by conservative justice Anthony Kennedy, joined by the quartet of the high court’s liberal justices. The verdict is a powerful testament to liberty, marriage and the cruelty of barring gay couples from the institution. The decision was delivered on the anniversary of Lawrence v. Kansas, a decision also swung by justice Kennedy, that overturned state bans on gay sex in 2003. How far we’ve come in 12 short years.
From this day forward, there is no more gay marriage and straight marriage.
In America, it’s just marriage now.
Here are the 12 most important lines from Friday’s decision:
1. “The history of marriage is one of both continuity and change.”
2. “The nature of injustice is that we may not always see it in our own times.”
3. “[T]he right to personal choice regarding marriage is inherent in the concept of individual autonomy. This abiding connection between marriage and liberty is why Loving invalidated interracial marriage bans…”
4. “Excluding same-sex couples from marriage thus conflicts with a central premise of the right to marry. Without the recognition, stability, and predictability marriage offers, their children suffer the stigma of knowing their families are somehow lesser….The marriage laws at issue here thus harm and humiliate the children of same-sex couples.”
5. “It demeans gays and lesbians for the State to lock them out of a central institution of the Nation’s society.”
6. “Same-sex couples, too, may aspire to the transcendent purposes of marriage and seek fulfillment in its highest meaning.”
7. “The right to marry is fundamental as a matter of history and tradition, but rights come not from ancient sources alone. They rise, too, from a better informed understanding of how constitutional imperatives define a liberty that remains urgent in our own era.”
8. “Under the Constitution, same-sex couples seek in marriage the same legal treatment as opposite-sex couples, and it would disparage their choices and diminish their personhood to deny them this right.”
9. “It is now clear that the challenged laws burden the liberty of same-sex couples, and it must be further acknowledged that they abridge central precepts of equality.”
10. “These considerations lead to the conclusion 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.”
11. “The Court now holds that same-sex couples may exercise the fundamental right to marry.”
12. “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.”