The Court rules in a 5-4 decision that the Constitution guarantees a right to same-sex marriage. The plaintiffs, gay and lesbian couples from four states, said they 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, while Lawyers for the four states said their bans were justified by tradition and the distinctive characteristics of opposite-sex unions. They said the question should be resolved democratically, at the polls and in state legislatures, rather than by judges. Justice Kennedy writes for the majority, which includes Sotomayer, Ginsburg, Breyer and Kagan:
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. 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.
In the dissent, Roberts, joined by Scalia and Thomas, says the Constitution has nothing to say on the subject:
If you are among the many Americans — of whatever sexual orientation — who favor expanding same-sex marriage, by all means celebrate today’s decision. Celebrate the achievement of a desired goal. Celebrate the opportunity for a new expression of commitment to a partner. Celebrate the availability of new benefits. But do not celebrate the Constitution. It had nothing to do with it.
Scalia also added:
The opinion is couched in a style that is as pretentious as its content is egotistic. Of course the opinion’s showy profundities are often profoundly incoherent.