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Read the Supreme Court’s powerful words about marriage equality

Nick Duffy June 26, 2015

The US Supreme Court has today ruled that same-sex couples have a constitutional right to marry across all 50 states.

The majority opinion, which five of the nine justices supported, was to-the-point, but also contained some powerful rhetoric about the nature of equality.

Here is what the justices had to say about the nature of marriage:

The nature of marriage is that, through its enduring bond, two persons together can find other freedoms, such as expression, intimacy, and spirituality. This is true for all persons, whatever their sexual orientation.

There is dignity in the bond between two men or two women who seek to marry and in their autonomy to make such profound choices.

On how banning same-sex marriage impacts on the rights of children:

As all parties agree, many same-sex couples provide loving and nurturing homes to their children, whether biological or adopted. And hundreds of thousands of children are presently being raised by such couples.

This provides powerful confirmation from the law itself that gays and lesbians can create loving, supportive families.

Excluding same-sex couples from marriage thus conflicts with a central premise of the right to marry. Without the recognition, stability, and predictability marriage
offers, their children suffer the stigma of knowing their families are somehow lesser.

They also suffer the significant material costs of being raised by unmarried parents,
relegated through no fault of their own to a more difficult and uncertain family life. The marriage laws at issue here thus harm and humiliate the children of same-sex couples.

And their assessment of the argument for ‘traditional marriage’ being law:

The history of marriage is one of both continuity and change.

That institution—even as confined to opposite-sex relations—has evolved over time. For example, marriage was once viewed as an arrangement by the couple’s parents based on political, religious, and financial concerns; but by the time of the Nation’s founding it was understood to be a voluntary contract between a man and a woman.

As the role and status of women changed, the institution further evolved. Under the centuries-old doctrine of coverture, a married man and woman were treated by the State as a single, male-dominated legal entity.

As women gained legal, political, and property rights, and as society began to understand that women have their own equal dignity, the law of coverture was abandoned.

These new insights have strengthened, not weakened, the institution of marriage. Indeed, changed understandings of marriage are characteristic of a Nation where new dimensions of freedom become apparent to new generations, often through perspectives that begin in pleas or protests and then are considered in the political sphere and the judicial process.

Here’s what the court said about why the constitution should protect LGBT people:

The nature of injustice is that we may not always see it in our own times.

The generations that wrote and ratified the Bill of Rights and the Fourteenth Amendment did not presume to know the extent of freedom in all of its dimensions, and so they entrusted to future generations a charter protecting the right of all persons to enjoy liberty as we learn its meaning.

On its own previous rulings:

As this Court held in Lawrence, same-sex couples have the same right as opposite-sex couples to enjoy intimate association. Lawrence invalidated laws that made samesex intimacy a criminal act.

And it acknowledged that “[w]hen sexuality finds overt expression in intimate conduct with another person, the conduct can be but one element in a personal bond that is more enduring.”

But while Lawrence confirmed a dimension of freedom that allows individuals to engage in intimate association without criminal liability, it does not follow that freedom stops there. Outlaw to outcast may be a step forward, but it does not achieve the full promise of liberty.

And the final conclusion:

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 once they were. As some of the petitioners in these cases demonstrate, marriage embodies a love that may endure even past death.

It would misunderstand these men and women to say they disrespect the idea of marriage. Their plea is that they do respect it, respect it so deeply that they seek to find its fulfillment for themselves.

Their hope is not to be condemned to live in loneliness, excluded from one of civilization’s oldest institutions. They ask for equal dignity in the eyes of the law. The Constitution grants them that right. The judgment of the Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit is reversed.
It is so ordered.

More: Anthony M Kennedy, Antonin Scalia, Associate Justice, Chief Justice of the United States, civil partnership, civil union, Clarence Thomas, Elena Kagan, equal marriage, Gay, gay weddings, John G Roberts Jr, lesbian, lesbian wedding, marriage, marriage equality, Notorious RBG, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, same sex weddings, Samuel Anthony Alito Jr, sonia sotomayor, Stephen G Breyer, supreme court, Union, US, wedding

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