In Brief

US Supreme Court legalises same-sex marriage

The Court has ruled that all states must issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples

The US Supreme Court has swept in marriage equality across America, ruling that the Constitution prohibits states from denying marriage licences to same-sex couples, Politico reports.

The 5-4 decision was divided along the expected ideological lines, with four liberal judges backing gay marriage and four conservatives opposing it. The swing-vote, Anthony Kennedy, joined the court's liberal wing.

Prior to today's ruling, same-sex marriage was legal in 37 of 50 states, but most of these states did so under federal circuit court rulings that could have been overturned had the Supreme Court gone the opposite direction.

This is the third year in a row that the Supreme Court has been presented with a same-sex marriage case. In 2013, the court struck down parts of the Defence of Marriage Act and overturned California's ban on same-sex marriage on technical grounds. Last summer, it remanded cases involving marriage equality claims in five states. They agreed to take up this set of four cases in January.

The United States now joins the 20 other nations in which gay marriage is legal. Most recently, Ireland became the first nation in the world to legalise the institution by popular vote. Finland signed a bill into law in February allowing same-sex marriages to commence in 2017.

Gay marriage has been legal in the UK since July 2013, when the Queen gave royal assent to a same-sex marriage bill passed for England and Wales. The Scottish Parliament approved a similar measure in February of last year.

British law prohibits gay marriage within the Church of England, however, as the faith maintains that marriage is an institution between a man and a woman.

Today's Supreme Court majority opinion, written by Justice Kennedy, concluded by stating: "No union is more profound than marriage, for it embodies the highest ideals of love, fidelity, devotion, sacrifice, and family. [The challengers] ask for equal dignity in the eyes of the law. The Constitution grants them that right."

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