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Live updates: Supreme Court rules gay couples nationwide have a right to marry

June 26, 2015

In a landmark victory for gay rights, a divided Supreme Court ruled 5-4 that the Constitution requires that same-sex couples be allowed to marry no matter where they live and that states may no longer reserve the right only for heterosexual couples.

  • Sarah Larimer
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In case you missed any of today’s Supreme Court news, here are some links to our coverage:

Supreme Court rules gay couples nationwide have a right to marry

Obama: U.S. ‘should be very proud’ (Video)

Roberts dissents: ‘Just who do we think we are?’ (Read the dissent)

How each Supreme Court justice came down on same-sex marriage

10 key lines from the landmark opinion

Biggest opponents consider resistance to ruling

Ruling divides 2016 candidates


How same-sex marriage became legal

How gay rights have spread around the world over the last 224 years

Companies celebrate the Supreme Court’s same-sex marriage ruling

Justice Scalia suggests asking a hippie about gay marriage. Here’s how to find one near you

Why Alabama is the least friendly state to gays in the nation

The Fix
10 tweets that define the day the Supreme Court legalized gay marriage

How unbelievably quickly public opinion changed on gay marriage, in 5 charts

How the White House celebrated gay marriage

Scalia blames gay marriage decision on Court’s lack of diversity. That makes no sense.

The Supreme Court just did Republicans a huge favor on gay marriage

The U.S. just joined a league of countries in which gay marriage is legal

About 3 million gay Americans just gained the right to marry

Why conservatives gave up fighting gay marriage

  • Sarah Larimer
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  • Michael Cavna
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Few social movements have symbols quite as readily adaptable to all manner of visual expression. The rainbow and the equals sign, as emblems of LGBT pride, lend themselves to great creative flexibility, providing a span of artistic possibilities as broad as the color spectrum itself.

And so, on a landmark day like today, when the Supreme Court rules that same-sex couples across the land may marry, the move to represent that outcome through graphical markers and triumphant imagery takes on an amazing array of artful expressions.

Read more here.

  • J. Freedom du Lac
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The full Washington Post interactive is here.

  • Lydia DePillis
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A gay pride flag flies below the American flag during a celebration in Ann Arbor, Mich. (Rebecca Cook/Reuters)

With the Supreme Court’s decision striking down state bans on gay marriage, gay and lesbian people are now fully equal in the eyes of the law. Right?

Well, not exactly. There’s still a big hurdle: No federal law currently prevents employers from discriminating against people on the basis of sexual orientation. So while gay, lesbian and bisexual people may have equal rights in love, they’re still far from equal at work.

It’s not just semantics. Multiple studies have found that gay and lesbian people face higher rates of employment discrimination and harassment, whether it’s through denial of certain health benefits, vandalism of personal property, or bias in hiring. (Rates are particularly high for transgender people, although according to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, they are protected under the prohibition of discrimination on the basis of sex).

The story isn’t as bad for people in the 21 states and the District of Columbia that have taken it upon themselves to ban workplace discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation. And last year, President Obama signed an executive order that does the same for federal workers. But that leaves private sector workers and local government employees in several very populous states, like Texas and Florida, with few legal protections.

Read more here.

  • Mark Berman
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The Supreme Court’s ruling followed a swell of courts striking down state bans on same-sex marriage and a surge in public support for such marriages. Still, the high court’s 5 to 4 ruling was a historic and narrow victory for gay rights.

The court’s four most conservative members dissented, and each of them wrote a separate opinion decrying the decision. Justice Antonin Scalia, unsurprisingly, wrote the fieriest dissent, needing just two sentences to say that the majority’s decision is a “threat to American democracy.”

He the decision a “judicial Putsch,” says it is delivered in a style “as pretentious as its content is egotistic” and — at one point — follows a quote from the majority opinion with “Really?” and another with “Huh?” In a footnote, Scalia says that if he ever joined an opinion that opens the way the majority opinion does, “I would hide my head in a bag.” He then adds: “The Supreme Court of the United States has descended from the disciplined legal reasoning of John Marshall and Joseph Story to the mystical aphorisms of the fortune cookie.” Scalia was not a fan.

For more on how Scalia explained his decision and how the other justices explained theirs, head to Post Nation.

  • Max Ehrenfreund
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The final paragraph of Justice Anthony Kennedy’s opinion holding that couples of the same sex have a constitutional right to wed is a cogent statement of what marriage means.


Kennedy is responding to opponents of gay marriage who argue that it undermines the traditional sanctity of an ancient institution by redefining it. The point of same-sex unions is not to weaken marriage, he argues, but to expand it in the nation as a whole and honor it more fully in their own lives.

These lines echo the final paragraph of Loving v. Virginia, the case in which the Supreme Court threw out laws banning interracial marriage in 1967.

“Marriage is one of the ‘basic civil rights of man,’ fundamental to our very existence and survival,” Chief Justice Earl Warren wrote then.

And the passage is also reminiscent of the conclusion of Griswold v. Connecticut, an important case from 1965 on contraception among married couples.

“Marriage is a coming together for better or for worse, hopefully enduring, and intimate to the degree of being sacred,” Justice William O. Douglas argued. “It is an association that promotes a way of life, not causes; a harmony in living, not political faiths; a bilateral loyalty, not commercial or social projects. Yet it is an association for as noble a purpose as any involved in our prior decisions.”

  • Sarah Larimer
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  • Sarah Larimer
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Via Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s Instagram account:

(Caption: Pride flags have officially been raised at City Hall. #LoveWins)

Chicago’s annual Pride Parade is Sunday, an event at which the Stanley Cup is expected to appear.

  • Mark Berman
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Authorities in Louisiana said that despite the high court’s decision, they had no plans to begin issuing marriage licenses. Attorney General James D. “Buddy” Caldwell released a statement criticizing the Supreme Court decision as “yet another example of the federal government intrusion into what should be a state issue.”

Caldwell’s office said that it had not found anything in the Supreme Court decision that would made it effective immediately.

As a result, there is no legal requirement for Louisiana officials to perform same-sex marriages or issue same-sex marriage licenses in the state, his office said.

Meanwhile, the Louisiana Department of Health and Hospitals also said that in the immediate aftermath of the Supreme Court’s decision, nothing would change.

“Current provisions of Louisiana law remain intact until a final mandate is issued by the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals,” the department said in a statement. “Until that happens, the department will continue to follow Louisiana law.”

  • Mark Berman
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The most forceful opponents of same-sex marriage promised Friday to “resist” the Supreme Court’s decision legalizing those marriages nationwide. But, in many states, it was unclear how far the people with the power to defy that ruling — state and county officials with authority over marriage licenses — were willing to go.

Beforehand, there were 14 states where same-sex couples could not legally marry. By mid-afternoon on Friday, licenses had been issued to same-sex couples in all but one of those states, according to the Human Rights Campaign, an advocacy group that supports the court’s ruling.

Still, it was unclear how top officials would reconcile their opposition with the high court’s ruling. Head here for more.

  • Rachel Weiner
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At a press conference in Fairfax, Va., where Democratic front-runner Hillary Rodham Clinton is scheduled to speak this evening, Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus argued that opposing gay marriage did not mean the party was closed off to gay voters.

“We believe that marriage should be between one man and one woman, we still believe that as a party,” Priebus said. “There’s a difference between dignity, love and respect and changing your position on what the definition of a sacrament is.”

He added that he could still find common ground with gay marriage supporters.

“It just happens to mean that on the particular issue of what the definition of marriage is we may have a different opinion,” he said. “But it doesn’t mean … that I don’t treat a person with love and respect because I might have a different opinion on a definition.”

  • Sarah Larimer
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Lori Hazelton and Stephanie Ward are the first same-sex couple to receive their marriage license on Friday. (Mischa Lopiano/The Muskegon Chronicle via AP)

Lori Hazelton and Stephanie Ward are the first same-sex couple to receive their marriage license in Muskegon, Mich., on Friday. (Mischa Lopiano/The Muskegon Chronicle via AP)

Jay Mark Streeter Jr., center, left, and Hai Nguyen fill out a marriage license application on Friday. (AP Photo/Jeff Chiu)

Jay Mark Streeter Jr., center, left, and Hai Nguyen fill out a marriage license application in San Francisco on Friday. Nguyen and Streeter were planning to marry today, after the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that same-sex couples have the right to marry nationwide. (Jeff Chiu/AP)

Paula Jackson and Stacie Rodriguez of Plainwell, Mich., apply for a marriage licence at Kalamazoo County Clerk's office after the U.S. Supreme Court ruling in favor of same sex marriage in Kalamazoo, Mich. on Friday. (Mark Bugnaski/Kalamazoo Gazette-MLive Media Group via AP)

Paula Jackson and Stacie Rodriguez of Plainwell, Mich., apply for a marriage licence at Kalamazoo County Clerk’s office after the U.S. Supreme Court ruling in favor of same sex marriage in Kalamazoo, Mich., on Friday. (Mark Bugnaski/Kalamazoo Gazette-MLive Media Group via AP)

Ethan Fletcher, left, and partner Andrew Hickam wait to have their marriage license paperwork processed at Hamilton County Probate Court on Friday. (John Minchillo/AP Photo)

Ethan Fletcher, left, and partner Andrew Hickam wait to have their marriage license paperwork processed at Hamilton County Probate Court in Cincinnati on Friday. (John Minchillo/AP)

Shawn Brown, left, and Christian Marasko hold hands as they are married during a mass wedding at the Fulton County Government Center on Friday in Atlanta. (John Bazemore/AP Photo)

Shawn Brown, left, and Christian Marasko hold hands as they are married during a mass wedding at the Fulton County Government Center on Friday in Atlanta. (John Bazemore/AP)

… Plus this bonus photo from San Francisco:

A man walks past a large rainbow flag hanging at City Hall in San Francisco, Friday. (AP Photo/Jeff Chiu)

A man walks past a large rainbow flag hanging at City Hall in San Francisco, Friday. (Jeff Chiu/AP)

  • J. Freedom du Lac
  • ·

According to Twitter’s data team, the #LoveWins hashtag peaked at 11:56 a.m. Eastern time, when an average of 34,000 tweets per minute were being sent.

  • J. Freedom du Lac
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“I am a proud defender of traditional marriage and believe the people of each state should have the right to determine their marriage laws,” Sen. Lindsey O. Graham (R-S.C.) said in a statement. “However, the Supreme Court has ruled that state bans on gay marriage are unconstitutional, and I will respect the Court’s decision.

“Furthermore, given the quickly changing tide of public opinion on this issue, I do not believe that an attempt to amend the U.S. Constitution could possibly gain the support of three-fourths of the states or a supermajority in the U.S. Congress. Rather than pursing a divisive effort that would be doomed to fail, I am committing myself to ensuring the protection of religious liberties of all Americans.”

Graham, who has announced that he is running for president, added: “No person of faith should ever be forced by the federal government to take action that goes against his or her conscience or the tenets of their religion. As president, I would staunchly defend religious liberty in this nation and would devote the necessary federal resources to the protection of all Americans from any effort to hinder the free and full exercise of their rights. While we have differences, it is time for us to move forward together respectfully and as one people.”

  • Jacob Bogage
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The 5-to-4 decision, written by Justice Anthony Kennedy, was joined by Justices Elena Kagan, Sonia Sotomajor, Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Stephen Breyer. Dissents were written by Chief Justice John Roberts and Justices Clarence Thomas, Antonin Scalia and Samuel Alito.

Here are key excerpts from Kennedy’s deciding opinion and several dissents to put the case and its arguments in perspective.

A dramatic and revelatory opening

“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. The petitioners in these cases seek to find that liberty by marrying someone of the same sex and having their marriages deemed lawful on the same terms and conditions as marriages between persons of the opposite sex.” 

This is how Kennedy opens the majority opinion, and his stance in framing the case is important. He equates “identity” with “liberty.” Liberty is explicitly protected under the Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment and by linking liberty to identity, Kennedy begins to set up his argument that same-sex marriage should be protected by the Constitution.

A stinging dissent from the chief justice

“Today, however, the Court takes the extraordinary step of ordering every State to license and recognize same-sex marriage. 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. Supporters of same-sex marriage have achieved considerable success persuading their fellow citizens—through the democratic process—to adopt their view. That ends today. Five lawyers have closed the debate and enacted their own vision of marriage as a matter of constitutional law. Stealing this issue from the people will for many cast a cloud over same-sex marriage, making a dramatic social change that much more difficult to accept.”

In dissent, Roberts argues that issues of gay marriage should be left up to legislatures and the political process — and they should not be decided by courts. He raises no legal objection to gay marriage, but rather insists that legalizing it or banning it is an act of social change that should occur only through the democratic process.

Not a judgement on gay marriage — or is it?

“Understand well what this dissent is about: It is not about whether, in my judgment, the institution of marriage should be changed to include same-sex couples. It is instead about whether, in our democratic republic, that decision should rest with the people acting through their elected representatives, or with five lawyers who happen to hold commissions authorizing them to resolve legal disputes according to law. The Constitution leaves no doubt about the answer.”

Roberts repeatedly writes that the case was not about same-sex marriage. He argues it’s about a court’s right to change state law on an issue that he thinks should be controlled by the states. Where Kennedy sees a constitutional violation of rights of gay Americans, Roberts sees a violation of rights of American voters who chose to ban gay marriage. If they want to allow it, he writes, they should vote to do it.

An “unrepresentative” court

Judges are selected precisely for their skill as lawyers; whether they reflect the policy views of a particular constituency is not (or should not be) relevant. Not surprisingly then, the Federal Judiciary is hardly a cross-section of America. Take, for example, this Court, which consists of only nine men and women, all of them successful lawyers who studied at Harvard or Yale Law School. Four of the nine are natives of New York City. Eight of them grew up in east- and west-coast States. Only one hails from the vast expanse in-between. Not a single Southwesterner or even, to tell the truth, a genuine Westerner (California does not count). Not a single evangelical Christian (a group that comprises about one quarter of Americans), or even a Protestant of any denomination.

The strikingly unrepresentative character of the body voting on today’s social upheaval would be irrelevant if they were functioning as judges, answering the legal question whether the American people had ever ratified a constitutional provision that was understood to proscribe the traditional definition of marriage. But of course the Justices in today’s majority are not voting on that basis; they say they are not. And to allow the policy question of same-sex marriage to be considered and resolved by a select, patrician, highly unrepresentative panel of nine is to violate a principle even more fundamental than no taxation without representation: no social transformation without representation.

Scalia took issue with the fact that his fellow justices are making social policy from the bench — not acting as jurists, in his view — even though they hardly represent America. He points out that they all got law degrees from Harvard or Yale or grew up on the coasts. None of them are evangelical Christians or even “a Protestant of any determination.” It is a striking attack on, in Scalia’s words, the “unrepresentative” biographies of the nine men and women on the Supreme Court. A New Jersey-born Catholic educated at Georgetown and Harvard, he necessarily would be among this group.

Read six more key lines here

  • Sarah Larimer
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(You can follow Washington Post graphics here.)

  • Sarah Larimer
  • ·
  • J. Freedom du Lac
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  • Sarah Larimer
  • ·

“The issue of marriage equality is one that divides people of principle, and I understand that,” Sen. Rob Portman, an Ohio Republican whose son came out to him a few years ago, said in a statement. “In 2013, I decided to support marriage equality after I came to understand this issue better in the context of my own family. I can’t help but view today’s Supreme Court decision through that same lens. And as a father, I welcome today’s decision.

“As I have said before, I would have preferred for this issue to be resolved by the democratic process in the states because I think you build a more lasting consensus that way. Now that the Court has reached its decision, I hope we can move past the division and polarization the issue has caused.”

You can read more on Portman and his son here.

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