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Supreme Court rules in favor of gay marriage

| Friday, June 26, 2015, 10:15 a.m.
Barry Reeger | Trib Total Media
The White House was bathed in rainbow-colored light on the night of June 26.
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People celebrate outside the Supreme Court in Washington, DC on June 26, 2015 after its historic decision on gay marriage.
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People celebrate in front of the U.S. Supreme Court after the ruling in favor of same-sex marriage June 26, 2015 in Washington, DC. The high court ruled that same-sex couples have the right to marry in all 50 states.
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Supporters of gay marriage rally in front of the Supreme Court in Washington June 26, 2015.
AFP/Getty Images
People celebrate outside the Supreme Court in Washington, DC on June 26, 2015 after its historic decision on gay marriage.
President Barack Obama pauses while speaking in the Rose Garden of the White House in Washington, Friday, June 26, 2015, after the Supreme Court declared that same-sex couples have the right to marry anywhere in the US.
Marge Eide, 77, and Ann Sorrell, 78, of Ann Arbor, a couple for 43 years, embrace before exchanging vows in Ann Arbor, Mich., following a ruling by the US Supreme Court that struck down bans on same sex marriage nation wide Friday, June 26, 2015.
Ann Sorrell, 78, left, and Marge Eide, 77, of Ann Arbor, a couple for 43 years, embrace after exchanging vows in Ann Arbor, Mich., following a ruling by the US Supreme Court that struck down bans on same sex marriage nation wide Friday, June 26, 2015.
Christopher Brown, left, and Tom Fennell hug after getting their marriage license at the Douglas County County Clerk's office in Omaha, Neb., Friday, June 26, 2015. Gay couples in Nebraska will now have their marriages legally recognized now that the U.S. Supreme Court declared Friday that same-sex couples have a right to marry anywhere in the United States.
Benjamin Moore, left, and Tadd Roberts kiss after their marriage ceremony at the Jefferson County Clerks Office Friday, June 26, 2015, in Louisville, Ky. The U.S. Supreme Court on Friday ruled that there is a right to same-sex marriage in all 50 states across the country.
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Ariel Cronig (L) and Elaine Cleary embrace outside of the US Supreme Court after the ruling in favor of same-sex marriage June 26, 2015 in Washington, DC. The high court ruled that same-sex couples have the right to marry in all 50 states.
AFP/Getty Images
Two women celebrate outside the Supreme Court in Washington DC on June 26, 2015 after its historic decision on gay marriage.
REUTERS
Gay rights supporters celebrate after the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the U.S. Constitution provides same-sex couples the right to marry, outside the Supreme Court building in Washington, June 26, 2015.
REUTERS
Supporters of gay marriage rally after the U.S. Supreme Court ruled on Friday that the U.S. Constitution provides same-sex couples the right to marry at the Supreme Court in Washington June 26, 2015.
Wedding cakes provided by All Saints Episcopal Church of East Lansing are cut inside the Ingham County Courthouse in Mason, Mich. The church planned months in advance for a pop-up reception in case same-sex marriage was approved by the U.S. Supreme Court., Mich., Friday, June 26, 2015. Michigan was one of 14 states enforcing a ban on same-sex marriage.
AFP/Getty Images
People celebrate outside the Supreme Court in Washington on June 26, 2015, after its historic decision on gay marriage.

Gay couples now may marry from sea to shining sea, the Supreme Court ruled Friday in a landmark decision that brought swift criticism of justices and vows from many conservatives to fight.

The ruling overturns bans in 14 states, including Ohio, and ensures same-sex marriages must be recognized in all 50 states, a sea change in American culture.

In praise of the decision, President Obama called it “justice that arrives like a thunderbolt.”

Before the decision, same-sex couples could marry in 36 states and the District of Columbia. Just three years ago, only six states allowed such unions.

Supporters hailed the 5-4 decision as one of the most important in recent history.

“It's a truly great day when every person in America is treated equally when it comes to marrying the person you love,” said Michael Testa, president of the Equality PA Board, a Harrisburg-based advocacy group.

Critics compared the magnitude of the decision with the Dred Scott ruling in 1857, which found blacks were not American citizens, and Roe v. Wade in 1973, a decision upholding abortion rights.

“The fact that this issue even made it to the Supreme Court of the United States was an indictment against American Christians and against American churches,” said Sam Rohrer, president of the American Pastors Network and Pennsylvania Pastors Network.

He chided the justices for “opening the door to a dangerous infringement on religious liberties.”

Pastors would not be required to officiate same-sex weddings because that would violate their First Amendment rights, University of Pittsburgh law professor Anthony C. Infanti said.

“This decision is a wrong decision for our country,” Bishop David Zubik of the Catholic Diocese of Pittsburgh said in a statement. “When we deliberately alter the design of marriage, we weaken the very foundation of society.”

The high court's decision has little effect in Pennsylvania, where same-sex marriage has been legal since May 2014 when a federal judge struck down a 1996 ban, but it was welcomed by many such as J.R. Shaw, who got married last year in Sharpsburg.

“The state recognizing my marriage didn't make my relationship any more or less valid — we had been together for 10 years — but just to know that it was something real and that people couldn't deny it in a legal sense was incredibly empowering,” Shaw said.

The justices deliberated since April on a federal appeals court ruling in Cincinnati that upheld bans on same-sex unions in Kentucky, Michigan, Ohio and Tennessee, four of the 14 states that allowed only a man and a woman to wed. The federal appeals court that oversees those four states upheld the bans in November, reversing pro-gay rights rulings of federal judges in all four states.

The majority opinion — authored by Justice Anthony Kennedy and joined by Justices Stephen Breyer, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Elena Kagan and Sonia Sotomayor — called the right to marry a “fundamental right” inherent under the 14th Amendment.

“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,” Kennedy wrote in the 34-page opinion.

In his dissent, Chief Justice John Roberts said the majority's decision undermines the American democratic process.

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

Justices Samuel Alito, Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas joined in Roberts' dissent in addition to writing their own opinions. The court's 5-4 split mimicked the votes in the 2013 Defense of Marriage decision, which struck down a federal law denying benefits to married same-sex couples.

Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, a Republican presidential candidate, tweeted that the ruling is “irrational” and “threatens religious liberty” and that Congress must act.

Gov. Tom Wolf praised the ruling and called on the Pennsylvania General Assembly to pass laws that would give individuals who identify as LGBT equal protection against discrimination.

The Supreme Court's decision makes the United States the 21st country to permit same-sex marriages, joining a list that includes Canada, Mexico, France, Spain, South Africa and Brazil.

Adam Brandolph is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-391-0927 or abrandolph@tribweb.com. The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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