Same-sex marriage is a constitutional right. The U.S. Supreme Court issued a defining ruling today, finally ending a long fight for marriage equality waged in state legislatures, courts and at the ballot box. What has been a contentious civil rights issue has been resolved.
The 5-4 ruling by the Justices, affirms the obligation of states to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples, and to recognize a marriage between two people of the same sex when a marriage was lawfully licensed and performed out of state. The majority ruled that preventing same-sex people from marrying violated their constitutional right to equal protection under the law and that the states were unable to put forth a compelling reason to withhold that right from people.
Obergefell v. Hodges, the case before the Justices, consolidated the cases in Michigan, Ohio, Kentucky and Tennessee, which pitted states' rights against individuals' right to marry, and traditional marriage against same-sex unions.
The justices addressed two key questions:
Whether gay marriage bans - currently in place in 13 states - are constitutional; and
Whether states can refuse to recognize marriages performed outside their borders.
SCOTUS agreed in January 2015 to hear the case. A three-judge panel of the Sixth U.S. Circuit Court dealt gay marriage advocates their first federal appeals court defeat last fall, upholding the bans in the four states and setting the stage for the Supreme Court review.