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Supreme Court Ruling Allowing Same-Sex Marriage Puts the U.S. in Line with International Peers

Same-sex couples can now legally marry in the United States, putting the country in line with international peers.

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In a landmark decision Friday, the U.S. Supreme Court cleared the way for gay marriage nationwide, bringing the United States in line with its international peers.

The 5-4 ruling adds the United States to a club of 19 countries — Netherlands, Belgium, Spain, Canada, South Africa, Norway, Sweden, Portugal, Iceland, Argentina, Denmark, France, Brazil, Uruguay, New Zealand, Britain, Luxembourg, Finland and Ireland — where gay and lesbian couples can already legally wed. Nepal is also considering legalizing gay marriage.

The pro-gay marriage movement got a shot in the arm when Irish voters, traditionally Catholic, last month voted to allow same-sex marriage. The Catholic Church opposes gay marriage; Pope Francis has said it threatens traditional families.

“The United States should lead, not lag, when it comes to human rights,” Evan Wolfson, founder and president of Freedom to Marry, a campaign to win marriage for couples nationwide, told FP in the run-up to Friday’s decision.

“It’s time the United States to affirm the freedom for marriage for all in order to be doing the heavy lifting in terms of human rights around the world,” he said.

The Supreme Court’s decision marks a remarkable shift in U.S. public opinion in recent years, and has become the flashpoint in a national debate over who can legally wed. Gay rights advocates paint the issue as the most urgent civil rights issue of the 21st century. Opponents of same-sex marriage argue it cheapens the value of traditional marriage between a man and a woman.

Across the U.S., many states already recognized gay marriage; same-sex couples can now wed in 37 states and the District of Columbia. But resistance to the movement is evident in states like North Carolina, whose conservative state legislature put up barriers to the act.

But public opinion shows those who oppose same-sex marriage to be in the minority. A recent Washington Post-ABC poll showed a record 61 percent of Americans are in favor of same-sex couples being allowed to wed.

In the majority opinion, Justice Anthony Kennedy offered a vociferous defense of the right for gay Americans to wed.

“The court now holds that same-sex couples may exercise the fundamental right to marry. No longer may this liberty be denied to them,” Kennedy wrote in the majority opinion. “No union is more profound than marriage, for it embodies the highest ideals of love, fidelity, devotion, sacrifice and family In forming a marital union, two people become something greater than they once were.”

In the dissent, Justice Antonin Scalia called gay marriage a” threat to American democracy.”

“The substance of today’s decree is not of immense personal importance to me,” he wrote. “But what really astounds is the hubris reflected in today’s judicial Putsch.”

Scalia was joined in his dissent by Chief Justice John Roberts, and Justices Clarence Thomas and Samuel Alito. Kennedy was joined by Justices Sonia Sotomayor, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Stephen G. Breyer, and Elena Kagan.

After Friday’s decision, Audrey Williams, one-half of a same sex couple who was married in October in North Carolina, told FP the ruling was a “huge relief.”

“It feels like we are real full, legal, citizens for the first time,” she said.

Photo Credit: Alex Wong/Getty Images

 

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