The Supreme Court on Wednesday struck down the Defense of Marriage Act and declined to reinstate California's Proposition 8. As a result, gay marriage will be legal in America's most populous state, and gay couples legally married in their states will enjoy federal benefits such as joint tax filing and inheritance rights.
The decisions -- greeted by a jubilant crowd on the steps of the Supreme Court in Washington -- cap off an epic year of progress for gay-marriage advocates. Same-sex marriage is now legal in 13 states, more than double the number from just a year ago. Thirty percent of Americans now live in a state where gay couples can legally marry, and nearly half live in a state that recognizes gay relationships in some form, be it marriage or civil union.
"Our country's movement on this issue has been nothing short of breathtaking," said Lanae Erickson Hatalsky of the center-left think tank Third Way, who compiled these statistics. "The country has come to realize that we should not stand in the way of couples who want to make that commitment [of marriage], and today's decisions ensure that our laws reflect that principle."