Victory for Gay Marriage! The court ruled 5-4 that the Constitution's guarantees of due process and equal protection under the law mean that states cannot ban same-sex marriages. With the ruling, gay marriage will become legal in all 50 states.
Justice Anthony Kennedy, writing on behalf of the court, said that the hope of gay people intending to marry "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 ruling is the latest milestone in the gay rights movement in recent years. In 2010, Obama signed a law allowing gays to serve openly in the U.S. military. In 2013, the high court ruled unconstitutional a 1996 U.S. law that declared for the purposes of federal benefits marriage was defined as between one man and one woman.
Reaction came swiftly. President Barack Obama, the first sitting president to support gay marriage, said on Twitter, "Today is a big step in our march toward equality. Gay and lesbian couples now have the right to marry, just like anyone else."
Hillary Clinton, the front-runner for the 2016 Democratic presidential nomination, wrote on Twitter she was "proud to celebrate a historic victory for marriage equality." Until 2013, she had long said she was opposed to same-sex marriages, but said her view had since "evolved."
Republican presidential candidate Jeb Bush added, "Guided by my faith, I believe in traditional marriage. I believe the Supreme Court should have allowed the states to make this decision."
The decision follows rapid changes in attitudes and policies toward gay marriage in America. It was not until 2003 that the Supreme Court threw out state laws banning gay sex. And it was not until 2004 that the Massachusetts became the first state to legalize same-sex marriage. Gay marriage has gained increasing acceptance in opinion polls in recent years, particularly among younger Americans.