US Supreme Court clears the way for gay marriages

Gay Marriage lesbian weddingREUTERS/Mark BlinchDayna Murphy (L) and Shannon St. Germain pose on their wedding day.

The U.S. Supreme Court has just ruled that gay marriage is legal nationwide.

Justice Anthony Kennedy issued the 5-4 ruling, finding the Fourteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution requires a state to licence a marriage between two people of the same sex.

“The fundamental liberties protected by the Fourteenth Amendment’s Due Process clause extend to certain personal choices central to individual dignity and autonomy, including intimate choices defining personal opinions and beliefs,” a summary of the opinion stated.

The justices explored two key questions about same-sex unions during their arguments in April:

1) Does the Fourteenth Amendment require a state to licence a marriage between two people of the same sex?

2) Does the Fourteenth Amendment require a state to recognise a marriage between two people of the same sex when their marriage was lawfully licensed and performed out-of-state?

This was the second time America’s high court took up same-sex marriage. The first time, in June 2013, the high court struck down a key provision of the Defence of Marriage Act (DOMA), allowing the US government to recognise same-sex marriages in states where they were already legal.

But the high court declined to rule on the broader question about gay marriage: Is there a Constitutional right to gay marriage?

The court’s 2013 decision on DOMA has spawned battles across the country over same-sex marriage — including one in Alabama, where courts have issued conflicting rulings leading to an uncertain fate for gay couples.

That latest case reviewed a decision by the US Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit to uphold same-sex marriage bans in Michigan, Ohio, Tennessee, and Kentucky, and looked at whether those bans violated the Fourteenth Amendment.

That amendment guarantees Americans “equal protection under the law” and the right to “due process of law.”

In their petition asking the Supreme Court to hear the case, same-sex couples argued that Kentucky’s same-sex marriage ban “marks the same-sex relationships and the families they create as less valuable and less worthy of respect than opposite-sex relationships.”

That mark creates a stigma, the petition continued, which is “incompatible with the bedrock Constitutional principles animating the Fourteenth Amendment.”

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