Friday morning, the Supreme Court ruled that same-sex couples have a right to marry nationwide in a historic decision that invalidates gay marriage bans in more than a dozen states.
Gay and lesbian couples already can marry in 36 states and the District of Columbia, according to Fox News. But in a 5-4 ruling, the court held that the 14th Amendment requires all 50 states to issue marriage licenses for same-sex couples and to recognize such marriages performed in other states.
The ruling means the remaining 14 states that did not allow such unions, in the South and Midwest, cannot keep same-sex couples from marrying and must recognize their unions and stop enforcing their bans.
Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote the majority opinion, just as he did in the court’s previous three major gay rights cases dating back to 1996.
The Supreme Court said that the right to marry is fundamental — and Kennedy wrote, joined by the court’s four more liberal justices, that under the 14th Amendment’s protections, “couples of the same-sex may not be deprived of that right and that liberty.”
For supporters of same-sex marriage, today’s ruling is a major breakthrough for gay rights after the Supreme Court struck down the federal Defense of Marriage Act in 2013. Now, the U.S. government is required to provide the same benefits to both homoxesual and heterosexual couples.
Cheers broke out outside the Supreme Court when the decision was announced.
President Barack Obama reacted moments after the decision was announced with a post on Twitter:
Today is a big step in our march toward equality. Gay and lesbian couples now have the right to marry, just like anyone else. #LoveWins
— President Obama (@POTUS) June 26, 2015
The ruling will not take effect immediately because the court gives the losing side roughly three weeks to ask for reconsideration. But some state officials and county clerks might decide there is little risk in issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples.
Ohio, which previously outlawed gay marriage, has already starting issuing gay marriage licenses and performing gay ceremonies.
There are an estimated 390,000 married same-sex couples in the United States, according to UCLA’s Williams Institute, which tracks the demographics of gay and lesbian Americans. Another 70,000 couples living in states that do not currently permit them to wed would get married in the next three years, the institute says. Roughly 1 million same-sex couples, married and unmarried, live together in the United States, the institute says.