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Marriage Equality




The Supreme Court has ruled that same-sex marriages are constitutional across the United States of America.


History was made at the U.S. Supreme Court Friday as the highest court in the land ruled that same-sex couples have a constitutional right to legally marry, in all 50 states and Puerto Rico.

Outside the high court, pro-marriage equality advocates cheered the decision, and the Gay Men's Chorus of Washington sang the National Anthem. Read about the celebratory scene on the courthouse's marble steps here and watch the chorus singing here. More joy recorded as it happened is here.

Word of the 5-to-4 decision in Obergefell v. Hodges spread like lightning across all forms of social media, as rainbow memes, pro-marriage cat videos and #LoveWins hashtags zoomed the news around the world in seconds. And of course, celebrities, including singer Hilary Duff, out columnist Dan Savage, and the stars of Orange Is The New Black weighed-in, too.

The announcement of the decision on The Advocate at 7:01am EDT, and elsewhere, sent dozens of couples to courthouses, clerks and local government offices in hopes of tying the knot. See photographs of the long-awaited nuptials from across the country here.

Within three hours of that announcement, same sex couples in Georgia started getting married, according to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Emma Foulkes and Petrina Bloodworth of Atlanta received the first marriage license for a gay couple in Fulton County. Read more here.

Impromptu celebrations sprung-up across the nation, outside the landmark Stonewall Inn in New York City, where riots by LGBT patrons 46 years ago next week are credited with igniting the modern gay rights movement. Bisexuals and trans couples celebrated as well; Activist Nikki Araguz Lloyd wed artist William Lloyd in Houston, TX.

In its ruling, the Court determined that the U.S. Constitution does indeed require states to allow same-sex marriages, effectively striking down existing bans in the 13 states and Puerto Rico, and requires every state in the nation to recognize marriage equality. You can read a summary of what the ruling actually means here.

Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote the opinion, holding that the 14th Amendment requires a state to license a marriage between two people of the same sex:

"The nature of injustice is that we may not always see it in our own times. The generations that wrote and ratified the Bill of Rights and the Fourteenth Amendment did not presume to know the extent of freedom in all of its dimensions, and so they entrusted to future generations a character protecting the right of all persons to enjoy liberty as we learn its meaning."

Chief Justice John Roberts and Justice Antonin Scalia dissented, joined by Justice Clarence Thomas and Justice Samuel Alito. It's unusual -- but not unprecedented, according to SCOTUSblog -- for all four dissenting justices to write their reasons why. Scalia's scathing dissent was so strong, even Fox News noted he is "not a good loser." Read more about his tantrum here and about the other dissenting opinions here.

One of tbe other more bizarre dissents was from Justice Samuel Alito, who worries that legalizing same-sex marriage will unleash an urge for retribution among gays and lesbians:

"Recalling the harsh treatment of gays and lesbians in the past, some may think that turn-about is fair play. But if that sentiment prevails, the Nation will experience bitter and lasting wounds."

President Obama made the following announcement in the White House Rose Garden:

"Our nation was founded on a bedrock principle, that we are all created equal. The project of each generation is to bridge the meaning of those founding words with the realities of changing times. Never-ending quest to ensure those words ring true for every single American. Progress on this journey often comes in small increments, sometimes it's two steps forward, one step back, propelled by the persistent effort of dedicated citizens. And then sometimes there are days like this when that slow steady effort is rewarded with justice that arrives like a thunderbolt. This morning the Supreme Court recognized that the Constitution guarantees marriage equality. In doing so they have reaffirmed that all Americans are entitled the equal protection of the law."

Watch Obama's statement in full here.

Republicans and right wing groups were not happy, and their reactions ranged from resigned to disgusted. Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal -- who this week announced he is running for the GOP party nomination for president -- let it be known his state is no hurry to recognize the Supreme Court decision.

"Current state law is still in effect until the courts order us otherwise," Mike Reed, Jindal's spokesman in the governor's office, told The Times-Picayune.

"There is not yet a legal requirement for officials to issue marriage licenses or perform marriages for same-sex couples in Louisiana," Attorney General Buddy Caldwell said in a written statement. The Jindal administration previously announced Louisiana's state government won't recognize gay marriage until a lower court rules on the issue. The 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals has taken up a gay marriage case, but was waiting on the Supreme Court ruling before moving forward. So, gay marriage in Louisiana will remain in limbo until this appeals court decision is issued.

GOP presidential candidate Rick Santorum, the former U.S. Senator from Pennsylvania, declared"the Supreme Court just launched an unprecedented attack on religious liberty and the traditional family." And he tweeted that he is ready for a fight:

Read a round-up of the Republican responses here and those of right wing groups here. The Advocate noted that despite predictions that marriage equality would trigger earthquakes, natural disasters and overall Armageddon, at last report the earth survived without any catastrophes out of the ordinary.

The Advocate reached out to Pastor Rick Scarborough of Texas -- who vowed to set himself aflame if marriage equality was upheld -- and so far, we have not heard back from him or his organization, about his plans for self-immolation.

There were plenty of others who felt it their duty to rain on the rainbows all over twitter. Read our collection of angry tweets -- many of them from conservative candidates running for president -- and note that those tweets include words like anal rape, Satan, God, Christian, tradition, polygamy, bestiality, and sodomy, here.

But there was some good news in today's decision for religious fundamentalists opposed to marriage equality.

"The opinion notes that religious institutions have a first amendment right to advocate against same sex marriage," according to Eric Citron of SCOTUSblog. "The opinion appears to echo Windsor in its dual rationales: Marriage is a fundamental right in which homosexual couples must share, and it would also be a violation of equal protection to extend that right only to heterosexual couples."

Jim Obergefell, the named plaintiff in the case, told reporters outside the court:

"Now at long last Ohio will recognize our marriage, and most important, marriage equality will come to every state across our country. It's my hope that the term 'gay marriage' will soon be a thing of the past, that from this day forward it will simply be, marriage, and our nation will be better off because of it. "The state of Ohio, the state in which I've lived worked and paid taxes for most of my life, continued to fight my right to list my name on John's death certificate. No American should have to suffer that indignity. That's why John and I, and the 30 plaintiffs who are a part of this lawsuit decided to fight. "The four words etched onto the front of the Supreme Court -- Equal Justice Under Law -- apply to us, too."

You can watch his reaction to reporters here. Earlier, Obergefell issued this statement:

"Today I could not be prouder of my country, more grateful for the memory of my late husband John, and more indebted to the incredible lawyers, advocates and fellow plaintiffs who made this landmark day possible. The fact that the state I have long called home will finally recognize my marriage to the man I honored and cherished for more than 20 years is a profound vindication--a victory I'm proud to share with countless more couples across the country. Thanks to the Supreme Court, a period of deep injustice in this nation is coming to a close, but it's also clear today that there is still so much work to do. As long as discrimination against lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people is tolerated--whether in the seeking of a marriage license, the pursuit of fairness on the job, or the fight for equal treatment at a restaurant or business--we haven't truly guaranteed equal justice under the law. But today's victory proves that anything is possible, and I could not be more hopeful about the capacity of this country to change for the better."

Today's landmark decision reverses a November 2014 ruling by the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals in Cincinnati, OH, which upheld marriage bans in Kentucky, Michigan, Ohio and Tennessee.

Tennessee plaintiff Dr. Valeria Tanco, who has a 1-year-old daughter with Dr. Sophy Jesty. said in a statement:

"We are overjoyed and grateful to the Supreme Court for finally putting an end to these damaging laws that have hurt so many families in Tennessee and across the country. We are grateful to every single member of our legal team, who have worked tirelessly to take down these discriminatory laws and finally bring the freedom to marry to the LGBT community. We would also like to thank our family, friends, and neighbors in Tennessee for all their support in this amazing and historic journey."

Robin Tyler and Diane Olson, two of the first plaintiffs to file suit against California's ban on marriage equality, were overcome with emotion upon hearing today's Supreme Court ruling in Obergefell v. Hodges. Watch their emotional reaction here.

Reactions from pro-marriage activist groups poured-in like a stream of well-wishers at a wedding reception. Read about them here.

National Center for Lesbian Rights Legal Director Shannon Minter, Esq. said in an emailed statement:

"In resounding terms that will echo through history, our nation's highest court has affirmed the common dignity and humanity of same-sex couples. For all people in this country, including millions of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender Americans, today is a day to celebrate. By recognizing that the U.S. Constitution guarantees all Americans the freedom to marry and form a family with the person with whom they have chosen to share their life, the Court has brought us one monumental step closer to a nation in which everyone can live openly and authentically, without fear, harassment, or discrimination. We are grateful to the courageous couples who brought their case before the Court, and to generations of LGBT activists, leaders, and community members who worked tirelessly for decades to make this day possible."

GLAAD President and CEO Sarah-Kate Ellis posted this statement on the organization's website:

"Today, love prevailed and our nation became a more perfect union by affirming that all people are indeed created equal and justice belongs to everyone. With this decision, loving and committed same-sex couples can finally rest knowing their families are protected and their dignity is no longer up for public debate. But as we celebrate this watershed victory for fairness, we are reminded that marriage equality is a benchmark, not a finish line, and our work to bridge the gap to full acceptance for LGBT people continues."

The Human Rights Campaign issued not just a statement but the result of a new poll showing 55 percent of likely voters would be less likely to support a presidential candidate who opposes marriage equality.

"The Supreme Court's ruling is a mandate for marriage equality that the candidates ignore at their own peril, not only because of the Supreme Court's strong and decisive language, but because poll after poll has shown the public overwhelmingly agrees with the Court," said JoDee Winterhof, HRC Vice President of Policy and Political Affairs.

"Candidates who continue to oppose marriage equality, particularly in the face of today's court ruling, are going to have an increasingly difficult case to make when 60 percent of Americans support marriage equality and nearly half the country knows an LGBT couple who has gotten married or are in a committed relationship."

The National LGBTQ Task Force posted "We Won Marriage!" on its website. But its executive director, Rea Carey, warned this isn't the last fight:

"In the majority of these states across the country, discrimination in other areas of our lives is still legal," she told reporters. "You can still be fired from your job you can be asked to leave a restaurant, you could be denied a hotel room on your honeymoon simply because of who you are and who you love. So we look forward to today as a continued foundation for our progress not only for LGBTQ people but for the country as a whole."

"Today is a historic day same-sex couples who deserve the equal recognition and protection of marriage, but for all who believe in the values of a just democracy," said Penda D. Hair, Co-Director of Advancement Project. "As a multiracial, next-generation civil rights organization, we applaud the Supreme Court for making a pivotal decision affirming equality for all people."

Out Columnist Dan Savage told The Advocate, "It's a thrilling day. But it's not the end. We still have abortion rights to protect, voting rights, and transgender rights. We cannot get complacent."

California State Speaker Toni Atkins, the state's first out lesbian legislative leader, says she plans to celebrate with friends, family and supporters tonight in her hometown of San Diego:

"This is a very emotional day. We feel relief, of course, that the U.S. Supreme Court affirmed the fundamental right of same-sex couples to legally commit their lives to each other. We feel admiration for the couples and the advocates who have fought for marriage equality through election after election and court after court, never giving up. And we feel pride in a movement that has helped inform public opinion and bring about justice in what, historically, is a relatively swift period of time. But most of all, we feel joy for every couple in every state who now have the opportunity to share their lives with the respect, dignity and legal protections that marriage brings."

The American Military Partner Association, the nation's largest organization of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender military families, had this to say:"From burial rights to veteran home loans to burial rights, today's historic Supreme Court decision bringing marriage equality to every state in our great nation means that LGBT military families will finally have access to the full federal veterans benefits they've earned," said AMPA President Ashley Broadway-Mack. "Nationwide marriage equality is not just a huge victory for LGBT people, but for America. "

Matt Thorn, interim executive director of OutServe-SLDN, said in a statement:

"While we take pleasure in this decision by SCOTUS, there is still much work to do. We need open transgender military service, gender identity inclusion as a protected class in the Military Equality Opportunity Program, a comprehensive Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA), a comprehensive immigration plan for LGBT couples and families, a renewed focus toward domestic HIV care and support, a plan to address LGBT homelessness, to name a few, but today we celebrate this victory and join together as a community in the goals and achievements that we have been able to accomplish in the last five decades."

Thorn also shared a letter he sent to Robert McDonald, Secretary of Veterans Affairs:

"OutServe-SLDN requests the United States Department of Veterans Affairs to begin immediately providing benefits to our LGB veterans and their families to ensure that all have access to their earned VA benefits, regardless of their state of residence and sexual orientation. "I further implore the VA department to provide these benefits to the thousands of LGB veteran couples retroactively beginning with the opinion of the United States Supreme Court in United States v. Windsor which granted federal recognition of marriage to same-sex couples. "I hope that you will move swiftly and concertedly to open these benefits to our lesbian, gay and bisexual veterans."

The American Humanist Organization applauded the court's ruling: "Our country is finally moving beyond outdated, religious definitions of marriage," said Roy Speckhardt, executive director of the American Humanist Association. "This is a victory for all LGBTQ Americans and allies who fought vigorously against discrimination."

Anna Galland, executive director of Civic Action, cheered the Supreme Court for expanding marriage equality nationwide:

"In a landmark decision, the U.S. Supreme Court has affirmed that all married couples--regardless of sexual orientation--are entitled to all of the fundamental rights and dignities that come with marriage. This is a monumental and incredibly meaningful decision for millions of American families. Millions of MoveOn members across the country will be celebrating today.

"This decision, which correctly interprets the Constitution, is a momentous step toward a society of greater freedom and equality for all."

Below you'll find a breakdown of Justice Kennedy's majority opinion, addressing the role of history in the constitutional analysis, according to SCOTUSblog. More analysis is available here.

"The nature of injustice is that we may not always see it in our own times. The generations that wrote and ratified the Bill of Rights and the Fourteenth Amendment did not presume to know the extent of freedom in all of its dimensions, and so they entrusted to future generations a character protecting the right of all persons to enjoy liberty as we learn its meaning."

The majority opinion rejects the claim that marriage is about procreation, even while saying that protecting children of same-sex couples supports the Court's ruling: "This is not to say that the right to marry is less meaningful for those who do not or cannot have children. An ability, desire, or promise to procreate is not and has not been a prerequisite for a valid marriage in any State."The majority bases its conclusion that same-sex marriage is a fundamental right on "four principles and traditions," according to SCOTUSblog:

  1. Right to person choice in marriage is "inherent in the concept of individual autonomy"
  2. "Two-person union unlike any other in its importance to the committed individuals"
  3. Marriage safeguards children and families
  4. Marriage is a keystone to our social order.

In his oral announcement, the Chief Justice took some of the edge off of his written denunciation of the Court, with an encouragement to gay people to celebrate what they the newly won, but says don't celebrate the Constitution; "that had nothing to do with it."

Justice Scalia's written dissent says, "If, even as the price to be paid for a fifth vote, I ever joined an opinion for the Court that began: 'The Constitution promises liberty to all within its reach, a liberty that includes certain specific rights that allow persons, within a lawful realm, to define and express their identity,' I would hide my head in a bag. The Supreme Court of the United States has descended from the disciplined legal reasoning of John Marshall and Joseph Story to the mystical aphorisms of the fortune cookie." SCOTUSblog noted that clearly, he is not happy with Justice Kennedy.

Another issue before the Court was whether states can prohibit same-sex marriages, but still be required to recognize legal same-sex marriages performed elsewhere. Because the court ruled that each state is constitutionally required to allow same-sex couples to marry, the question of recognition becomes a non-issue.

There were so many papers filed by the high court on this decision that it took three boxes to hold them all.

Even though the ruling was announced today, the justices actually voted sometime before May 1, and their decision has been known only to them and their clerks.

Watch our report from Matt Baume here:

You can read the opinion online below:

Marriage Equality Ruling by Raffy Ermac

Bookmark this page! The Advocate will bring you up-to-the-minute details on the ruling, and reaction, as it happens.

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Dawn Ennis

The Advocate's news editor Dawn Ennis successfully transitioned from broadcast journalism to online media following another transition that made headlines; in 2013, she became the first trans staffer in any major TV network newsroom. As the first out transgender editor at The Advocate, the native New Yorker continues her 30-year media career, in which she has earned more than a dozen awards, including two Emmys. With the blessing of her three children, Dawn retains the most important job title she's ever held: Dad.
The Advocate's news editor Dawn Ennis successfully transitioned from broadcast journalism to online media following another transition that made headlines; in 2013, she became the first trans staffer in any major TV network newsroom. As the first out transgender editor at The Advocate, the native New Yorker continues her 30-year media career, in which she has earned more than a dozen awards, including two Emmys. With the blessing of her three children, Dawn retains the most important job title she's ever held: Dad.