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Supreme Court rules in favor of same-sex marriage

The Supreme Court ruled Friday that same-sex couples have a right to marry nationwide, in a historic decision that invalidates gay marriage bans in more than a dozen states.

And now, Alabama Attorney General Luther Strange said Alabama will comply with the “law of the land.”

Gay and lesbian couples already can marry in 36 states and the District of Columbia. The court’s 5-4 ruling on Friday means the remaining 14 states, in the South and Midwest ­ – including Alabama – will have to stop enforcing their bans on same-sex marriage.

The outcome is the culmination of two decades of Supreme Court litigation over marriage, and gay rights generally.

Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote the majority opinion, just as he did in the court’s previous three major gay rights cases dating back to 1996.

“No union is more profound than marriage,” Kennedy wrote, joined by the court’s four more liberal justices.

But other justices argued that the court should not be able to order states to change their marriage definition. Chief Justice John Roberts, in a dissent joined by Justices Clarence Thomas and Antonin Scalia, called the ruling an “extraordinary step.”

“Many people will rejoice at this decision, and I begrudge none their celebration. But for those who believe in a government of laws, not of men, the majority’s approach is deeply disheartening,” they wrote.

“The majority’s decision is an act of will, not legal judgment.”

Strange said the high court’s decision “overturned centuries of tradition and the will of the citizens of a majority of the states.”

“Chief Justice Roberts agreed with our amicus brief that ‘a State’s decision to maintain the meaning of marriage that has persisted in every culture throughout human history can hardly be called irrational,’” Strange said.

“While I do not agree with the opinion of the majority of the justices in their decision, I acknowledge that the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling is now the law of the land.  Short of the passage of a Constitutional Amendment protecting marriage as between one man and one woman, the U.S. Supreme Court has the final say.”

But it will take time for the ruling to go into effect because the court gives the losing side roughly three weeks to ask for reconsideration. But some state officials and county clerks might decide there is little risk in issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples.  The Brewton-Standard is working to discuss the matter with Escambia County Probate Judge Doug Agerton.

The cases before the court involved laws from Kentucky, Michigan, Ohio and Tennessee that define marriage as the union of a man and a woman. Those states have not allowed same-sex couples to marry within their borders and they also have refused to recognize valid marriages from elsewhere. They previously had their bans upheld by a federal appeals court.

Just two years ago, the Supreme Court struck down part of the federal anti-gay marriage law that denied a range of government benefits to legally married same-sex couples.

There are an estimated 390,000 married same-sex couples in the United States, according to UCLA’s Williams Institute, which tracks the demographics of gay and lesbian Americans. Another 70,000 couples living in states that do not currently permit them to wed would get married in the next three years, the institute says. Roughly 1 million same-sex couples, married and unmarried, live together in the United States, the institute says.

The Obama administration backed the right of same-sex couples to marry. The Justice Department’s decision to stop defending the federal anti-marriage law in 2011 was an important moment for gay rights and President Obama declared his support for same-sex marriage in 2012.