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Joyous celebration – and skepticism – after high court’s gay marriage ruling

Gay rights groups are celebrating the Supreme Court’s decision striking down restrictive marriage laws, seen as a big boost for the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) community.

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Kimberly (L) and Kristin Cornuelle-Marks (R), a couple for more than five years with a young daughter, are married by United Church of Christ minister Brenda Brown in Cleveland, Ohio, Friday after the US Supreme Court ruled that the U.S. Constitution provides same-sex couples the right to marry, handing a historic triumph to the American gay rights movement.

Kim Palmer/REUTERS

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Same-sex couples across the country joined in a nationwide celebration of “equal dignity” on Friday after announcement of the US Supreme Court’s landmark decision striking down restrictive marriage laws.

“We are elated, not just for our family but for hundreds of thousands of families around the country,” said April DeBoer, one of the plaintiffs in the high court case.

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“For years, our five-year-old daughter has been asking us when ‘we’ are getting married, meaning the whole family,” Jayne Rowse, Ms. DeBoer’s partner, added in a statement.

“We all thought it was cute, but she’s honestly more astute than many politicians in recognizing the importance of marriage for uniting a family,” Ms. Rowse said.

The Michigan couple’s case was among the four consolidated cases decided on Friday in an historic opinion declaring that gay men and lesbians across the country enjoy a fundamental right under the US Constitution to marry. The court also ruled that all 50 states must recognize same-sex marriages performed in other states.

“We are overjoyed and grateful to the Supreme Court for finally putting an end to these damaging laws that have hurt so many families in Tennessee and across the country,” said Dr. Valeria Tanco whose marriage to Dr. Sophy Jesty was not legally recognized under Tennessee law.

Gay rights supporters hailed the high court decision as a major advance for the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) community.

Others criticized the Supreme Court’s decision as a work of judicial activism, snatching the contentious marriage issue away from elected state lawmakers and democratic debate to be decided by five of the Supreme Court’s nine justices.

“The Supreme Court has stripped all Americans of our freedom to debate and decide marriage policy through the democratic process,” said Jim Campbell, a lawyer with the conservative group Alliance Defending Freedom.

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“The freedom to democratically address the most pressing social issues of the day is the heart of liberty,” he said. “The court took that freedom from the people and overrode the considered judgment of tens of millions of Americans who recently reaffirmed marriage as the union of a man and a woman.”

Such criticism did not dampen the enthusiasm of those celebrating the high court win.

“Today’s ruling is a transformative triumph decades in the making, a momentous victory for freedom, equality, inclusion, and above all, love,” said Evan Wolfson, president of Freedom to Marry and a pioneer in the same-sex marriage movement.

“For anyone who ever doubted that we could bend the arc of the moral universe toward justice, today the United States again took a giant step toward the more perfect union we the people aspire to,” Mr. Wolfson said.

Wade Henderson, CEO of the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, agreed. “This is a transformative day in American history,” he said. “Today is the day that our nation’s highest court acknowledged the full dignity of LGBT Americans to love and build a family as equals in our society,” he said in a statement.

“The Supreme Court today welcomed same-sex couples fully into the American family,” said James Esseks, director of the ACLU’s Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and HIV Project.

“Gay and lesbian couples and our families may be at peace knowing that our simple request to be treated like everyone else – that is, to be able to participate in the dignity of marriage – has finally been granted,” Mr. Esseks said.

“This is a huge step forward for the modern LGBT movement, which has seen huge changes in a short period of time: just 12 years ago, a person could be arrested merely for engaging in same-sex intimacy,” Elizabeth Cooper, a professor at Fordham Law School, said in a statement.

“The humanity of gay individuals now has been recognized by the highest court in the land,” she added.

Ryan Anderson of the conservative Heritage Foundation offered a different take on the decision.

“Today is a significant setback for all Americans who believe in the Constitution, rule of law, democratic self-government, and marriage as a union of one man and one woman,” he said in a statement. “The court got it wrong: it should have not mandated all 50 states to redefine marriage.”

Mr. Ryan added: “This is judicial activism. Nothing in the Constitution requires the redefinition of marriage. Five unelected judges do not have the power to change the truth about marriage or the truth about the Constitution.”

Amid the celebrations, gay rights activists and lawyers stressed that much work remains to be done to prevent sexual-orientation discrimination at work and in other aspects of American life.

“While we in Michigan still have a long way to go to ensure equal protection under the law for LGBT people, this is a huge hurdle to clear and we’re energized by this decision,” said Dana Nessel, a lawyer for Rowse and DeBoer.