In a landmark opinion, the United States Supreme Court has ruled that states cannot ban same-sex marriage, establishing a new civil right and providing gay rights advocates an unprecedented victory.
Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote the 5-4 ruling in Obergefell v. Hodges which now settles one of the major civil rights fights in recent history.
"No union is more profound than marriage, for it embodies the highest ideals of love, fidelity, devotion, sacrifice and family," Justice Kennedy wrote. "In forming a marital union, two people become something greater than they once were."
"The limitation of marriage to opposite-sex couples may long have seemed natural and just, but its inconsistency with the central meaning of the fundamental right to marry is now manifest," the Court added.
The case came before the Supreme Court after several lower courts overturned state bans on gay marriage. Fourteen couples and two widowers challenged the bans, arguing that the freedom to marry is a fundamental right for all people and should not be left to popular vote.
The challenges included same-sex couples who wanted to marry, those who sought to have their lawful out-of-state marriage recognized, and those who wanted to amend a birth or death certificate with their marriage status.