Supreme Court legalizes same-sex marriage nationwide - WAFF-TV: News, Weather and Sports for Huntsville, AL

Supreme Court legalizes same-sex marriage nationwide

The decision comes after the Supreme Court struck down both the Defense of Marriage Act and California's same-sex marriage ban in 2013. (Source: Raycom) The decision comes after the Supreme Court struck down both the Defense of Marriage Act and California's same-sex marriage ban in 2013. (Source: Raycom)
The White House was lit in rainbow colors Friday. (Source: CNN) The White House was lit in rainbow colors Friday. (Source: CNN)

(RNN) - The Supreme Court reversed a 6th Circuit District Court decision and legalized same-sex marriage by a 5-4 majority, saying the Fourteenth Amendment requires marriage licenses to be issued between two people of the same sex.

The decision was issued in the case Obergefell v. Hodges, brought forth by a Cincinnati man who sued Ohio for discrimination for not recognizing his out-of-state marriage.

[Obergefell v. Hodges full opinion.]

James Obergefell sued so the state would allow him to be listed as the surviving spouse of his partner, John Arthur, who was diagnosed with ALS. Arthur died three months after the couple was married in a Baltimore airport.

Obergefell attended the Supreme Court every day they issued opinions for this session while waiting on a decision.

The use of the Constitution when deciding this case seemed to be the deciding factor on both sides.

The majority opinion was written by Justice Anthony Kennedy. He said the Constitution was not written with specific liberties in mind, but still protected them.

"The nature of injustice is that we may not always see it in our 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 charter protecting the right of all persons to enjoy liberty as we learn its meaning," Kennedy wrote.

Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts issued the 31-page principal dissent in the opinion, saying the Constitution had nothing to do with same-sex marriage.

"If you are among the many Americans - of whatever sexual orientation - who favor expanding same-sex marriage, by all means celebrate today's decision. Celebrate the achievement of a desired goal. Celebrate the opportunity for a new expression of commitment to a partner. Celebrate the availability of new benefits. But do not celebrate the Constitution. It had nothing to do with it," Roberts wrote in his dissent.

The majority opinion was joined by justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Stephen Breyer, Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan, while the other three dissenters were justices Antonin Scalia, Clarence Thomas and Samuel Alito.

Following the decision, President Barack Obama tweeted his approval. 

Friday evening, the White House was lit up in rainbow colors to show support for the ruling.

The case, and those it was combined with, are the culmination of a long line of lawsuits filed by same-sex marriage supporters, fighting for the same rights as other married couples under the law.

Legal battles go back decades

The legal battle for same-sex marriage legalization goes back decades, but the current push through the court began in the 1990s after several high-profile cases challenged states for discriminating against same-sex couples.

The lawsuits prompted the federal government to pass the Defense of Marriage Act in 1996, which President Bill Clinton signed, allowing states to refuse to recognize marriages of same-sex couples made in other states.

The law did not deter supporters of same-sex marriage, who continued to fight for recognition.

In 2004, same-sex marriage was legalized in Massachusetts following a 2003 ruling by the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court in the case Goodridge v. Dept. of Public Health, brought forward by the Gay and Lesbian Advocates and Defenders, or GLAD.

The court ruled that allowing same-sex couples to obtain civil unions but not marriages was unequal and a violation of the state constitution. Therefore, same-sex marriage was legalized.

A flurry of anti-same-sex marriage sentiment followed and swept through the country as dozens of states enacted constitutional amendments banning same-sex marriage between 2004 and 2006.

Meanwhile, some states, mostly in the Northeast, began legalizing it through legislation.

But in other states, same-sex marriage supporters fought the amendments and took them to the courts, claiming they violated the civil rights of same-sex couples.

It wasn't until 2013 when two lawsuits over same-sex marriage, one from California and another from New York, came before the U.S. Supreme Court that the tides began to turn.

The U.S. Supreme Court both struck down California's same-sex marriage ban, also called Proposition 8, and ruled the Defense of Marriage Act was unconstitutional on June 26, 2013.

However, the Supreme Court refrained from ruling on same-sex marriage in other states.

The decision kicked off a flurry of lawsuits throughout the country by supporters, aiming to legalize same-sex marriage in their states.

One by one, state supreme courts and U.S. district courts began striking down same-sex marriage bans, resulting in the legalization of same-sex marriage in 14 states in 2014 alone.

However, one U.S. district court, serving Tennessee, Kentucky, Ohio and Michigan, disagreed.

The 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals gave a dissenting decision, upholding a same-sex marriage ban in the case of Obergefell v. Hodges.

The dissension by the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals meant the Supreme Court had to grant review, and it was combined with similar lawsuits in the other states from the district to be argued before the country's highest court on April 28.

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