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In what President Barack Obama is calling a “big step toward equality,” the Supreme Court ruled on Friday in favor of same-sex marriage nationwide.
The 5 to 4 decision comes as polls indicate that most Americans are also in favor of gay marriage, the New York Times writes. Justice Anthony M. Kennedy, who was joined by four of the court’s left-leaning wing, wrote the majority opinion.
As late as October, the justices ducked the issue, refusing to hear appeals from rulings allowing same-sex marriage in five states. That decision delivered a tacit victory for gay rights, immediately expanding the number of states with same-sex marriage to 24, along with the District of Columbia, up from 19.
Largely as a consequence of the Supreme Court’s decision not to act, the number of states allowing same-sex marriage has since grown to 36, and more than 70 percent of Americans live in places where gay couples can marry. The court did not agree to resolve the issue for the rest of the nation until January, in cases filed by gay and lesbian couples in Kentucky, Michigan, Ohio and Tennessee. The court heard extended arguments in April, and the justices seemed sharply divided over what the Constitution has to say about same-sex marriage.
Lawyers for the plaintiffs said their clients had a fundamental right to marry and to equal protection, adding that the bans they challenged demeaned their dignity, imposed countless practical difficulties and inflicted particular harm on their children.
Obama, who has long been vocal about granting rights to gay couples and marriage equality, took to Twitter to express his approval of court’s final decision.
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