After months of deliberating, the Supreme Court ruled on Friday that the Constitution guarantees a nationwide right to same-sex marriage, striking down four state constitutional amendments defining marriage as between one man and one woman
The New York Times reports that the Supreme Court ruled 5-4 Friday in Obergefell v. Hodges that state-level gay marriage bans are unconstitutional, concluding that 14th Amendment requires a state to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples.
The majority determined that extending the right to marry protects families and "without the recognition, stability, and predictability marriage offers, children suffer the stigma of knowing their families are somehow lesser."
Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote the majority opinion, reversing the ruling in the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals that ruled such bans constitutional. Chief Justice John Roberts was one of the dissenting judges, along with Justices Antonin Scalia, Clarence Thomas, and Samuel Alito.
In a dissent, Chief Justice Roberts contended that despite the ruling, the Constitution has nothing to say on the subject of gay marriage.
"If you are among the many Americans - of whatever sexual orientation - who favor expanding same-sex marriage, by all means celebrate today's decision," Chief Justice Roberts wrote. "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."
Laws regarding same-sex marriage first began shifting in 2004, when Massachusetts became the first state to allow gay couples to wed. In 2013, the Supreme Court struck down part of the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act, which prevented same-sex couples whose marriages were recognized by their home state from receiving the benefits available heterosexual married couples under federal law.
By the end of 2014, over two-thirds of Americans lived in states where gay marriage was legal, with the vast majority of this change coming through judicial activism.
On April 28, 2015, the Supreme Court heard extended oral arguments regarding four state level bans that were upheld at the Fifth Circuit level.
At the time, justices seemed sharply divided over what the Constitution has to say about same-sex marriage, and Justice Anthony Kennedy had expressed doubt about a decision striking down all state-level bans.
Following the Supreme Court's decision, Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton took to social media to express her joy, tweeting the word "proud." The White House also displayed its approval by changing its Twitter avatar into the rainbow colors.
In a statement from the White House, President Obama called the decision a "victory for America."
"There's so much work to be done to extend the full promise of America to every American. But today we can say - in no uncertain terms - that we've made our union a little more perfect," he said.
"Today should also give us hope that on the many issues with which we grapple, often painfully - real change is possible," he added.
In the days prior to the Supreme Court's decision, however, many Christian conservatives advocated for a civil disobedience effort should same-sex marriage become federally legalized.
"If they rule for same-sex marriage, then we're going to do the same thing we did for the civil rights movement. We will not obey an unjust law," Rev. Bill Owens, president and founder of the Coalition of African-American Pastors (CAAP) said during a press conference held in the Church of God in Christ's historic Mason Temple,
"The politicians and the courts have tried to take God out of this country," he continued. "This country was founded on Godly principles. We will not stand back and be silenced."
Owens urged Christians of all churches to join him in civil disobedience in light of the Supreme Court's decision to legalize gay marriage.
"We stand today to put America on notice that we will not obey an unjust law."