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Obama: Supreme Court Ruling On Same-Sex Marriage Is 'A Victory For America'

WASHINGTON (CBSNewYork/AP) -- The U.S. Supreme Court declared Friday that same-sex couples have a right to marry anywhere in the United States, in a ruling President Barack Obama described as "a victory for America."

As CBS2's Jessica Schneider reported, the decision sparked a celebration outside the Supreme Court, and a spontaneous rendition of the Star-Spangled Banner.

The historic court ruling brought hundreds to the court steps, and President Obama even called lead plaintiff James Obergefell to congratulate him.

"This decision affirms what millions of Americans believed," Obama said. "When all Americans are treated more equal, we are all more free."

Gay and lesbian couples could already marry in 36 states and the District of Columbia. The court's 5-4 ruling means the remaining 14 states, in the South and Midwest, will have to stop enforcing their bans on same-sex marriage.

WEB EXTRA: Read The Full Decision

Gay rights supporters cheered, danced and wept outside the court after the decision, which put an exclamation point on breathtaking changes in the nation's social norms.

PHOTOS: Supreme Court Rules In Favor Of Same-Sex Marriage

Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote the majority opinion, just as he did in the court's previous three major gay rights cases dating back to 1996. It came on the anniversary of two of those earlier decisions.

"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," Kennedy wrote, joined by the court's four more liberal justices.

The stories of the people asking for the right to marry "reveal that they seek not to denigrate marriage but rather to live their lives, or honor their spouses' memory, joined by its bond,'' Kennedy said.

As he read his opinion, spectators in the courtroom wiped away tears after the import of the decision became clear. One of those in the audience was lead plaintiff Obergefell.

Outside, Obergefell held up a photo of his late spouse, John, and said the ruling establishes that "our love is equal.'' He added, "This is for you, John.''

Obama then placed his congratulatory phone call to Obergefell, which he took amid a throng of reporters outside the courthouse.

"I just want to say congratulations, your leadership on this changed the country," Obama told Obergefell.

Speaking a few minutes later at the White House, Obama praised the decision as "justice that arrives like a thunderbolt.''

Obama and Vice President Joe Biden also both took to Twitter to praise the decision.

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio issued a statement calling the ruling "a pivotal moment in the history of our nation."

"Today, this country is richer – filled with more equality, more acceptance, and more love than yesterday," de Blasio said.

The mayor celebrated with a pop-up party Friday afternoon on the steps of City Hall, where he officiated two same-sex weddings, CBS2's Steve Langford reported.

Sarah Joseph and Katrina Council, who met on a blind date at historic Stonewall Inn, were one of the two couples married by de Blasio.

Another couple got their marriage vows renewed.

"A feeling of sheer euphoric joy this morning -- we've been fighting this battle for a long time," said Jeffrey LeFrancois of Hell's Kitchen.

De Blasio Marries 2 Couples On City Hall Steps

"Nobody has to worry now," added Sara Bender of the Upper East Side. "Nobody else has to even go through that kind of fight again."

But some New Yorkers from other countries, know all too well the struggle will continue. A man named Alexander said he fled Russia because he is gay.

"I can say it's really dangerous to be gay there," he said.

Speaking on 1010 WINS Friday evening, de Blasio said: "It was a joy to celebrate with these beautiful couples as history was being made for our nation. And for the first time ever, everyone has that same equal right to marry the person they love. It was an extraordinary and joyous day."

De Blasio said the marriage equality movement has to be one of the fastest changing social movements in the country's history.

Listen: Full Interview With Mayor Bill de Blasio On 1010 WINS

"You think about 10-15 years ago the assumption all over the country was this was something that wouldn't happen in our lifetime, that we would see true marriage equality," he said.

De Blasio said what happened was "powerful."

"People all over the country started to express that desire for change right at the grassroots...I think by the time it got to the Supreme Court, I think the people of this country had already decided that marriage equality was the right thing," the mayor said.

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced the One World Trade Center spire will be lit in rainbow colors to celebrate the decision.

"Today, we are proud New Yorkers and proud Americans. Today, progress marches on," Cuomo said in a statement.

The four dissenting justices each filed a separate opinion explaining his views, but they all agreed that states and their voters should have been left with the power to decide who can marry.

"This court is not a legislature. Whether same-sex marriage is a good idea should be of no concern to us,'' Chief Justice John Roberts wrote in dissent. "Stealing this issue from the people will for many cast a cloud over same-sex marriage, making a dramatic social change that much more difficult to accept."

Roberts read a summary of his dissent from the bench, the first time he has done so in nearly 10 years as chief justice.

"If you are among the many Americans -- of whatever sexual orientation -- who favor expanding same-sex marriage, by all means celebrate today's decision,'' Roberts said. "But do not celebrate the Constitution. It had nothing to do with it.''

Justice Antonin Scalia said he was not concerned so much about same-sex marriage but about "this court's threat to American democracy.'' Justices Samuel Alito and Clarence Thomas also dissented.

Some other elected officials and leaders also denounced the decision.

Governor Christie On Supreme Court Ruling On Same-Sex Marriage by GovChristie on YouTube

Gov. Chris Christie said "I believe marriage is between one man and woman."

The Republican offered his reaction days before he is expected to announce whether he will run for president in 2016, WCBS 880's Levon Putney reported.

"So I agree with the descent that Chief Justice Roberts authored today," Christie said. "I think this is something that should be decided by the people of each state and not imposed upon them by a group of lawyers sitting in black robes at the U.S. Supreme Court. That being said, those five lawyers get to impose it."

Gov. Christie Disagrees With Supreme Court Ruling, But Will Uphold The Law

So, the governor said he will support the decision.

"But I don't agree with the way it's been done," he added.

Archbishop Joseph E. Kurtz of Louisville, Kentucky, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops called the ruling "a tragic error that harms the common good and most vulnerable among us."

"Regardless of what a narrow majority of the Supreme Court may declare at this moment in history, the nature of the human person and marriage remains unchanged and unchangeable," Kurtz said. "Just as Roe v. Wade did not settle the question of abortion over 40 years ago, Obergefell v. Hodges does not settle the question of marriage today. Neither decision is rooted in the truth, and as a result, both will eventually fail. Today the Court is wrong again. It is profoundly immoral and unjust for the government to declare that two people of the same sex can constitute a marriage."

Same-sex marriage has been legal for several years in New York, New Jersey and Connecticut.

But with the court clearing the way for same-sex marriages nationwide, it will guarantee that the unions are recognized everywhere rather than disappearing when couples cross state lines.

It will also impact adoptions. In New York City, Joseph Vitale and Rob Talmas will now get to have both of their names on the birth certificate for their 2-year-old son, Cooper.

They adopted him from Ohio, which banned same-sex marriage, and only allowed one of their names on Cooper's documents.

Cooper is named as a plaintiff in the case, and by winning, his fathers have prevailed in their fight.

"I can go on with my life. Cooper is going to have a normal life. We're not going to have to do anything special for him," Talmas said. "He's going to be a normal child and fall into the ranks of all the other children he's going to meet. And we can get on and be normal, everyday parents, and say we fought the good fight, and we just get on with it and just smile."

The ruling will not take effect immediately because the court gives the losing side roughly three weeks to ask for reconsideration. But some state officials and county clerks might decide there is little risk in issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples.

The cases before the court involved laws from Kentucky, Michigan, Ohio and Tennessee that define marriage as the union of a man and a woman. Those states have not allowed same-sex couples to marry within their borders and they also have refused to recognize valid marriages from elsewhere.

Just two years ago, the Supreme Court struck down part of the federal anti-gay marriage law that denied a range of government benefits to legally married same-sex couples.

Justices Stephen Breyer, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Elena Kagan and Sonia Sotomayor formed the majority with Kennedy on Friday, the same lineup as two years ago.

The earlier decision in United States v. Windsor did not address the validity of state marriage bans, but courts across the country, with few exceptions, said its logic compelled them to invalidate state laws that prohibited gay and lesbian couples from marrying.

The number of states allowing same-sex marriage has grown rapidly. As recently as last October, just over one-third of the states permitted it.

There are an estimated 390,000 married same-sex couples in the United States, according to UCLA's Williams Institute, which tracks the demographics of gay and lesbian Americans. Another 70,000 couples living in states that do not currently permit them to wed would get married in the next three years, the institute says. Roughly 1 million same-sex couples, married and unmarried, live together in the United States, the institute says.

The Obama administration backed the right of same-sex couples to marry. The Justice Department's decision to stop defending the federal anti-marriage law in 2011 was an important moment for gay rights, and Obama declared his support for same-sex marriage in 2012.

The states affected by Friday's ruling are: Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Michigan, Mississippi, most of Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota, Ohio, South Dakota, Tennessee and Texas.

(TM and © Copyright 2015 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2015 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)


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