The US Supreme Court has ruled that same-sex marriage is a legal right across the United States. It means the 14 states with bans on same-sex marriage will no longer be able to enforce them. In what may prove the most important civil rights case in a generation, five of the nine court justices determined that the right to marriage equality was enshrined under the equal protection clause of the 14th amendment. The ruling, in which justice Anthony Kennedy cast the deciding vote, means the number of states where gay marriage is legal will rise from 37 states to all 50.
The ruling, which sparked celebrations outside the court in Washington DC, brings to an end more than a decade of bitter legal battles. Victory in the case – known as Obergefell v Hodges, after an Ohio man who sued the state to get his name listed on his late husband’s death certificate – capped years of campaigning by LGBT rights activists, high-powered attorneys and couples waiting decades for the justices to rule. It is unclear how soon marriage licences will be issued in states where gay unions were previously prohibited. President Barack Obama said the ruling was a “Victory for America”. “When all Americans are treated as equal, we are all more free” he said.
On the contrary some Christian conservatives decried the decision. Former Arkansas governor and presidential candidate Mike Huckabee called the ruling “an out-of-control act of unconstitutional, judicial tyranny”. Kellie Fiedorek, a lawyer for an anti-gay marriage advocacy group, said the decision “ignored the voices of thousands of Americans”.