On June 26, 2015, the United States Supreme Court, in a 5–4 decision in Obergefell v. Hodges, determined that same-sex couples have a constitutional right to legally marry, striking down bans in 13 states and Puerto Rico. In jubilant celebrations outside the high court, equality advocates cheered the decision. Immediately, couples previously denied marriage licenses sought out courthouses, clerks, and local government offices in hopes of tying the knot. “No union is more profound than marriage, for it embodies the highest ideals of love, fidelity, devotion, sacrifice, and family,” Associate Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote in the majority opinion. The plaintiffs “ask for equal dignity in the eyes of the law. The Constitution grants them that right.”
Marriage bans had been falling like dominoes since the previous fall, when the Supremes declined to hear appeals of lower court decisions striking down bans in five states, therefore letting those decisions stand. Other states within those federal court circuits followed suit in adopting equal marriage rights, and more appellate courts struck down marriage bans. But when the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals upheld bans in Michigan, Ohio, Kentucky, and Tennessee, differing with other appellate courts, it assured that the Supreme Court would have to settle the question. The high court heard oral arguments April 28, and we waited anxiously until the decision came down in June — leading to victory celebrations and weddings around the nation.
Click through for photos from the year of marriage equality.
Couples wait to wed at Unitarian Universalist Church of Fort Myers, Fla., in January. Marriage equality came to Florida before the Supreme Court's action, as a federal judge struck down the state's ban in August 2014. After state officials exhausted their delaying tactics, the ruling went into effect January 6.
Sergio March and husband Havard Scott speak to the media outside the Fifth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans in January. The appeals court, which covers Alabama, Louisiana, and Texas, heard arguments on marriage equality that month, but it didn't rule before the Supreme Court did, rendering the issue moot.
Attorney Mary Bonauto, civil rights project director for Gay and Lesbian Advocates and Defenders, shares the news outside the Supreme Court in Washington, after the court declared that same-sex couples have a right to marry anywhere in the U.S. Bonauto was one of the attorneys who argued for marriage equality at the court in April.
Cindy Jackson and Denise Niewinsky, and Thomas Kirdahy and Terrence McNally — the famous playwright — were married by Mayor Bill de Blasio on the steps of New York City Hall. New York was already a marriage equality state, but the couples and the mayor joined in the celebration of the Supreme Court ruling with the June 26 ceremonies.