WASHINGTON — A divided Supreme Court made history on Friday, ruling that the Constitution ensures the right of same-sex couples to marry.
In a resounding decision that caps a remarkably fast transformation across the social, legal and political landscapes, the high court overturned marriage restrictions in Kentucky and three other states.
“Rising from the most basic human needs, marriage is essential to our most profound hopes and aspirations,” Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote.
The court’s 5-4 majority concluded the Constitution’s 14th Amendment guarantee of equal protection ensures the same-sex marriage rights.
The decision locks in same-sex marriage rights nationwide, guaranteeing that marriages that have already been performed must be recognized in every state. The only way to unravel the court’s action would be to amend the U.S. Constitution, a longshot that has fallen from political favor.
“The Constitution promises liberty to all within its reach, a liberty that includes certain specific rights that allow persons, within a lawful realm, to define and express their identity, “ Kennedy wrote.
Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Elena Kagan, Sonia Sotomayor and Stephen Breyer joined in the majority decision. All were appointed by Democratic presidents, and their support for same-sex marriage was never in question.
In dissent, Republican-appointed justices Antonin Scalia, Clarence Thomas and Samuel Alito likewise voiced their positions foreshadowed by their prior opinions. Chief Justice John Roberts, Jr. also dissented.
This story has been updated.