Love and Marriage

Christophe Haubursin/Vox

In a landmark decision, the US supreme court overruled 26 states and cracked down on their same-sex marriage bans – this means that effectively, same sex marriage is now legal in all the US.

“No union is more profound than marriage, for it embodies the highest ideals of love, fidelity, devotion, sacrifice, and family,” Justice Anthony Kennedy, who joined the court’s liberals in the majority opinion, wrote. “[The challengers] ask for equal dignity in the eyes of the law. The Constitution grants them that right.”

It was a tight decision, with five justices supported and four opposed, but the decision passed, and the only debatable thing is whether states will implement the decision immediately or stall for a few days or weeks.

“What can happen and should happen is that states should start issuing marriage licenses almost immediately,” James Esseks, director of the American Civil Liberties Union’s LGBT and AIDS Project, said. “Once the Supreme Court rules, it’s the law of the land, and they can go forward.”

The move didn’t come as a surprise, as both legal experts and LGBT advocates expected the ban on same-sex marriages to be declared unconstitutional, based on years and years of legal lawsuits.

“The court was so focused on the tens of thousands of children being raised by same-sex parents and so sensitive to the ways those children are being disadvantaged and harmed and stigmatized,” Shannon Minter, legal director at the National Center for Lesbian Rights, said. “It’s hard to see how those same considerations wouldn’t end up applying equally or even more forcefully to state marriage bans.”

Justice Anthony Kennedy consistently acts as a swing vote in the US Supreme Court.

The History of Same Sex Marriage

While it might seem that the world is changing, same-sex unions were actually common for much of our planet’s history. Sure, same-sex couples weren’t given the same legal recognition, but various types of same-sex unions have existed, ranging from informal, unsanctioned relationships to highly ritualized unions.

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Same sex unions took place in ancient Rome, Greece, Mesopotamia, some areas of China, and continued until Christianity became the dominant religion in Europe. In 342 AD Christian emperors Constantius II prohibited same sex marriage and ordered the execution of all those who were so married. Numerous examples of same sex unions among peers, not age-structured, are found in Ancient Greek writings.

However, as the church became more and more powerful in Europe, same-sex relationships were increasingly frowned upon and banned in many countries by the Church or the state. It wasn’t until the late 20th century and the early 21st century that same-sex unions began to be socially accepted again – but it’s a slow and painstaking process.

Today, same sex marriages are considered legal in 11 European states (Belgium, Denmark, Iceland, the Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, Spain, France, the United Kingdom (England, Wales and Scotland), [Sweden] and Luxembourg with Finland currently in the process of legislation), while other types of recognition for same-sex unions (civil unions or registered partnerships) are as of 2014 legal in twelve European countries: Andorra, Austria, Czech Republic, Finland, Germany, Hungary, Ireland, (Isle of Man), (Jersey), Liechtenstein, Slovenia, Switzerland, the United Kingdom (Northern Ireland), Malta and Croatia. Now, the US will also join this list.

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