Same-sex couples must be allowed to marry in every state, the Supreme Court said in a 5-4 ruling Friday.
The Court's decision wasn't especially surprising—legal experts on both sides of the issue had seen the writing on the wall for a while now—but it will nevertheless be remembered as one of the defining civil rights cases in the Court's history and as an enormous leap forward for gay rights.
"The nature of marriage is that, through its enduring bond, two persons together can find other freedoms, such as expression, intimacy, and spirituality. This is true for all persons, whatever their sexual orientation," Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote in the majority's opinion.
Kennedy's decision is a full-throated, unqualified defense of the right to same-sex marriage, heavy with references to the dignity conferred by marriage. He wrote that laws prohibiting same-sex marriage are unfair to gay couples and to the children they raise.
"No union is more profound than marriage, for it embodies the highest ideals of love, fidelity, devotion, sacrifice, and family. In forming a marital union, two people become something greater than once they were," Kennedy wrote. "It would misunderstand these men and women to say they disrespect the idea of marriage. Their plea is that they do respect it, respect it so deeply that they seek to find its fulfillment for themselves. "¦ They ask for equal dignity in the eyes of the law. The Constitution grants them that right."