February 2, 2024

What Happens If Gay Marriage is Legalized?

As many as 60 percent of Americans -- and more than a third of Republicans, according to a recent poll -- say that same-sex couples should be allowed to marry. But a legal decision that opens the door to gay marriage could also bring with it political and social battles over whether gay people should be granted full rights and protections in their communities.

The Supreme Court ruled 5-4 on Friday that states cannot keep same-sex couples from marrying, and must recognize their marriages. Justice Anthony Kennedy, seen as the key swing vote in the case, wrote the majority opinion. Chief Justice John Roberts, along with justices Antonin Scalia, Clarence Thomas and Samuel Alito, wrote lengthy dissents.

By the time of the Obergefell ruling, same-sex marriage had already been made legal in 37 states and the District of Columbia, by either state legislation or voter initiative, or by federal courts that overturned state bans. It was not, however, legal in Kentucky, Mississippi, most of Missouri, and Ohio, where state law defined marriage as a union between a man and a woman, or in Tennessee, which banned same-sex marriage.

The legalization of same-sex marriage could have consequences that span the entire nation, including how states design their own marriage laws and whether they provide the same benefits to all married couples. But, the decision primarily affects the states that had not yet legalized same-sex marriage, which include Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Indiana, Kentucky, Michigan, Mississippi, most of Missouri, Oklahoma, Tennessee and Texas, as well as some Native American tribes.

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