In a historic decision, the U.S. Supreme Court has ruled that same-sex couples have a constitutional right to marry across all 50 states of the United States.
The nation’s highest court voted 5-4 in a decision that upholds same-sex marriage and overturns state-level decisions where such marriages are prohibited. A total of 13 states have same-sex marriage bans, including Louisiana, Michigan, Ohio, Tennessee and Texas.
“No union is more profound than marriage, for it embodies the highest ideals of love, fidelity, devotion, sacrifice, and family,” Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote. “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 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.”
Prior to the ruling, gay couples were able to marry in 37 states and Washington D.C. It is expected that the decision will be challenged in some parts of the United States.
This is the largest U.S. ruling on marriage since the Supreme Court’s 1967 decision that allowed interracial marriages. And on June 26, 2003, exactly twelve years ago, the same court also overturned sodomy laws in 14 states, making same-sex sexual activity legal in every state.
Same-sex marriage was legalized in Canada in 2005 following the introduction of a bill in Parliament by then-Liberal Prime Minister Paul Martin. Canada was the fourth country in the world and the first country outside Europe to legalize the form of marriage.
Nearly two dozen countries have since legalized same-sex marriage.
Map of U.S. gay marriage implementation as of March 2015.