Love Wins: The Road to Same-Sex Marriage Victory

The U.S. Supreme Court rules same-sex couples have a fundamental right to marry.
(Photo: The Washington Post/Getty Images)
Jun 26, 2015· 3 MIN READ
Rebecca McCray is a staff writer covering social justice. She is based in New York.

The Supreme Court made history on Friday morning when it announced that same-sex couples across the country have a fundamental, constitutional right to marry. The opinion in Obergefell v. Hodges marks a huge victory for advocates and same-sex couples who have long been fighting—from the halls of state legislatures to the streets to the courts—for the right to marry.

In its ruling, the court beautifully articulated the simple premise that supporters spent years battling for:

“No union is more profound than marriage, for it embodies the highest ideals of love, fidelity, devotion, sacrifice, and family,” wrote Justice Anthony M. Kennedy. “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…. [The challengers] ask for equal dignity in the eyes of the law. The Constitution grants them that right.”

Same-sex marriage is now legal in 37 states, and the court’s ruling opens the door for more.

Here’s a look back at some of the key moments over the last decade that led to this decision.

May 2004: Massachusetts becomes the first U.S. state to allow same-sex couples to marry. Here, Janet Deegan and Constance Cervone leave Boston’s City Hall with their marriage license, shortly after the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court orders the state to issue licenses to same-sex couples.

(Photo: Jim Bourg/Reuters)

April 2005: Connecticut passes a civil union law. This allowed same-sex couples to access some of the benefits of marriage. Below, couples fill out paperwork with the help of a town clerk in Stamford on the first day of civil-union ceremonies in the state.

(Photo: Chip East/Reuters)

October 2006: New Jersey passes a civil union law.

May 2008: The California Supreme Court rules a state statute that denies same-sex couples the right to marry is unconstitutional. Same-sex couples begin marrying in June, but Proposition 8, which attempts to overturn the court’s ruling, is added to the November ballot. Gay couples in West Hollywood participate in a group commitment ceremony during National Gay Pride Month.

(Photo: David McNew/Getty Images)

October 2008: The Connecticut Supreme Court joins California and rules that same-sex couples may marry.

April 2009: The Iowa Supreme Court decides unanimously to allow same-sex couples to marry. In the same year, same-sex marriage bills pass in Vermont, Maine, New Hampshire, and the District of Columbia. Jodie Vandermark-Martinez kisses her wife, Jessica, below, after their wedding ceremony in Des Moines.

(Photo: Scott Olson/Getty Images)

August 2010: The first poll to find a majority of Americans support same-sex marriage is published. In the poll, conducted by CNN, 52 percent of respondents say they believe gays and lesbians should have a constitutional right to marriage, while 46 percent say they should not.

February 2011: The Obama administration files a brief saying it will no longer defend the Defense of Marriage Act. DOMA prevented the federal government from recognizing same-sex couples’ marriages under federal law.

(Photo: Jessica Rinaldi/Reuters)

June 2011: New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo signs a bill legalizing same-sex marriage. Above, supporters of the bill celebrate outside the New York Senate.

May 2012: President Obama becomes the first sitting president to publicly share his support for same-sex marriage. In November 2012, Maine, Minnesota, Maryland, and Washington all pass same-sex marriage bills.

June 2013: The Supreme Court overturns California’s Proposition 8 and Section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act. Edie Windsor, the lead plaintiff in the case against DOMA, celebrates below at New York City’s pride parade.

(Photo: Michael Stewart/Getty Images)

June 2015: President Obama praises the Supreme Court’s decision shortly after it comes down. “An entire country realized that love is love,” he says. “What an extraordinary achievement, but what a vindication of the belief that ordinary people can do extraordinary things.”