In a historical ruling on the rights of homosexuals in the United States, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled today that same-sex couples have a constitutional right to marry nationwide.

In a tight 5-4 ruling, U.S. justices said that states lack legitimate reason to deprive gay couples of the freedom to marry. Justice Anthony Kennedy, a Republican appointee, had jumped ship and voted with the four Democratic appointees in the majority in favor of gay marriage, thus effectively legalizing gay marriages in the 14 states where they are still banned.

Gay couples “ask for equal dignity in the eyes of the law,” Kennedy wrote. “The Constitution grants them that right.”

The ruling is a legal landmark, on par with the 1967 Supreme Court decision that guaranteed interracial couples the right to wed. It punctuates a period of sweeping change in the rights of gays, coming only 11 years after Massachusetts became the first state to allow same-sex marriages.

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