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By Miriam Raftery

Photo: The Moderate Voice

June 26, 2015 (Washington D.C.) – In a historic ruling, the U.S. Supreme Court majority has ruled that same-sex marriage is legal in all 50 states, protected under the equal protection clause of the U.S. Constitution.

President Barack Obama likened the decision to “justice that arrives like a thunderbolt,” declaring, “When all Americans are treated as equal, we are all more free.”

The high court, ruling in the Obergefell v. Hodges case, was asked to decide two issues: can individual states ban  same-sex marriage and must all states honor same-sex marriages for weddings performed in other states. 

Justice Anthony Kennedy, a Republican appointed by Ronald Reagan, wrote the majority opinion in the 5-4 opinion, joined by the court’s four liberal justices.

“No union is more profound than marriage, for it embodies the highest ideals of love, fidelity, devotion, sacrifice, and family,” he wrote. Of same sex couples, he added,  “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.”

In a rare move, four conservative justices each penned their own dissent.  Chief Justice Robert’s dissent told those who favor same-sex marriage to “by all means celebrate today’s decision…but do not celebrate the Constitution. It had nothing to do with it.”

Justice Antonin Scalia called the court’s action “a threat to American democracy.”

Support for gay marriage however has grown across the nation, with same-sex marriage bans in only 13 states before the ruling.  A recent Pew Research poll showed 57 percent of Americans surveyed now support same-sex marriage, including nearly two-thirds of Democrats and independents, but only one-third of Republicans.

Republican presidential candidates spoke out against the ruling.  Religious conservative Mike Huckabee called it “judicial tyranny.”

 Florida Governor Jeb Bush, a frontrunner for the GOP nomination, stated, “"I believe in traditional marriage. I believe the Supreme Court should have allowed the states to make this decision," said former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush. "I also believe that we should love our neighbor and respect others, including those making lifetime commitments. In a country as diverse as ours, good people who have opposing views should be able to live side by side."

Outside the Supreme Court, thousands rallied, most in favor of legalization same sex marriage.  Upon hearing the news, a gay men’s chorus celebrated with a moving rendition of the “Star Spangled Banner,” which the White House posted on its website blog.

While the ruling legalizes same-sex marriages across the nation, it does not compel churches to perform such ceremonies, but merely protects the rights of individuals to obtain marriage licenses and have a ceremony performed by state officials or a willing private party.

Obergefell was a consolidation of cases seeking the freedom to marry for same-sex couples from Kentucky, Michigan, Ohio and Tennessee. The litigation was led by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), Gay & Lesbian Advocates & Defenders (GLAD), Lambda Legal, the National Center for Lesbian Rights (NCLR) and attorneys from each of the states that were part of this consolidated case.

The case was a review of the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals from November 2014. The 6th Circuit was one of only three federal courts to uphold marriage discrimination since the Supreme Court struck down a critical section of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) in Windsor v. United States and California’s discriminatory Proposition 8 in Hollingsworth v. Perry on June 26, 2013.

Today’s ruling, like the 2013 decisions, comes within days of the anniversary of the Loving v. Virginia case (June 12, 1967), in which the Supreme Court struck down all race-based restrictions in marriage law, and which has been an important precedent in the battle for marriage equality for same-sex couples.

“Today’s decision will not only be remembered as pivotal in civil rights history, but truly life-changing for LGBT Americans who have struggled to have our relationships and our families treated equally,” said Dr. Delores A. Jacobs, chief executive officer of The LGTB Community Center in San Diego. “After decades of struggle attempting to gain the freedom to marry, this decision rightly makes equal recognition of marriage a matter of settled law throughout our nation.

“In this moment, we remember with deep gratitude the bravery of hundreds of early trailblazers who dared to live their lives openly and to love bravely and to have the hard conversations. We also are so thankful for the hundreds of thousands of people who have given their time, energy, creativity and dollars to fuel and sustain this movement,” Jacobs said. “With this decision, we see the long arc of history bend a little more toward justice. We know our community has much work left to do, but for today, on this issue, we can finally and truly claim victory.”

San Diego Democratic Party Chair Francine Busby issued this statement today. “ As Democrats who cherish equality as a fundamental value, we are inspired, elated, and proud any time the ongoing struggle for civil rights in our country results in a victory like this.” But she added, ““There are still many battles ahead. In most states you can still be fired for being gay or transgender. Outdated adoption laws still need to be fixed to enable more families to thrive. The movement will not stop today. But in this Pride Month, on this historic day, we are happy to celebrate with the LGBT community, in San Diego County and across the nation."

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