In the midst of celebrating, here are some fact you need to know.
IS THIS THE FINAL WORD ON THE ISSUE?
Yes, for all intents and purposes. The states that oppose gay marriage could ask the justices to reconsider, but that's unlikely. That means June 26, 2015, will be marked in future history books as the moment gay marriage was declared legal across the United States.
WHAT DOES THIS MEAN FOR THE 14 STATES THAT STILL BAN GAY MARRIAGE?
The Southern and Midwestern states must lift their bans and allow gay and lesbian couples to marry. Marriage licenses were already being issued Friday in many of these states. The court gave the losing side roughly three weeks to ask for reconsideration, but some state officials and county clerks are opting to go ahead and begin issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples. The 14 states that had banned gay marriage are Georgia, Ohio, Texas, Arkansas, Michigan, Nebraska, Alabama, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, most of Missouri, North Dakota, South Dakota and Tennessee.
DOES ANYTHING CHANGE IN THE 36 STATES AND THE DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA THAT ALREADY ALLOW GAY MARRIAGE?
No. The ruling ensures that the wave of lower-court decisions that legalized gay marriage across most of the West and East in the last 1½ years stand. The Supreme Court ruling prevents state officials and county clerks from being forced to determine how to deal with thousands of marriages already issued. LGBT advocates and married gay couples celebrated in these states, expressing relief and joy that the movement's remarkable winning streak in the courts stretched to the end.
DOES THIS MEAN CHURCHES MUST CONDUCT GAY MARRIAGES?
No. Religious organizations are exempt from this ruling. They can still make their own decisions about whether clergy will conduct gay marriages in their places of worship. Southern Baptists, Mormons and other conservative churches that believe God intended marriage to be a union only between a man and a woman said the ruling won't change their decisions not to allow same-sex marriages in their churches. Some religions already allow gay marriage, such as the United Church of Christ, and more could follow. Episcopalians are set to decide next week at an assembly in Salt Lake City whether to change church laws so religious weddings can be performed for same-sex couples.
WERE THE JUSTICES UNANIMOUS IN THEIR DECISION?
No. The ruling narrowly passed 5-4. Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote the majority opinion, joined by the court's four more liberal justices, saying 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." 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.
(Side note: Gay Central valley never endorses a political candidate but we can encourage our community to vote, and to vote wisely. The Supreme Court Justices are appointed by the President of the US, another reason Presidential campaigns matter. While we don't know who will be running in 2016, we do know that there will be the need for new justices in the coming years.)