The Supreme Court ruled on Friday that the U.S. Constitution provides same-sex couples the right to marry, handing a historic triumph to the American gay rights movement.

The court ruled 5-4 that the Constitution’s guarantees of due process and equal protection under the law mean that states cannot ban same-sex marriages. With the ruling, gay marriage will become legal in all 50 states.

Justice Anthony Kennedy, writing on behalf of the court, said that the hope of gay people intending to marry “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.”

Kennedy, a conservative who often casts the deciding vote in close cases, was joined in the majority by the court’s four liberal justices.

Kennedy, appointed by Republican President Ronald Reagan in 1988, has now authored all four of the Supreme Court’s major gay rights rulings, with the first coming in 1996. As with his 2013 opinion when the court struck down a federal law that denied benefits to same-sex couples, Kennedy stressed the dignity of marriage.

Kennedy said the hope of gay people intending to marry “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.”

“Without the recognition, stability and predictability marriage offers, their children suffer the stigma of knowing their families are somehow lesser,” Kennedy wrote.

In a blistering dissenting opinion, conservative Justice Antonin Scalia said the decision shows the court is a “threat to American democracy.” The ruling “says that my ruler and the ruler of 320 million Americans coast-to-coast is a majority of the nine lawyers on the Supreme Court,” Scalia added.

Conservative Chief Justice John Roberts read a summary of his dissent from the bench, the first time he has ever done so in his 10 years on the court. Roberts said although there are strong policy arguments in same-sex marriage, it was not the court’s role to force states to change their marriage laws.

“Five lawyers have closed the debate and enacted their own vision of marriage as a matter of constitutional law,” Roberts wrote.

The ruling is the Supreme Court’s most important expansion of marriage rights in the United States since its landmark 1967 ruling in the case Loving v. Virginia that struck down state laws barring interracial marriages.

Written by Lawrence Hurley
Full report at Reuters

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