WASHINGTON (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - “It’s a majority!”, one person yelled on Friday morning from the portico of the U.S. Supreme Court.
The words tumbled down the marbled steps and spilled into the waiting crowd. Cheers erupted, people hugged, they kissed and they cried.
The high court had just ruled same-sex marriage a constitutional right in the United States.
“Love Wins” read one sign held aloft the joyous crowd. “America is ready,” read another.
Carmen Guzman was waiting outside the court, as she has for each of its decisions on gay marriage. A native of southern Mexico, Guzman had traveled to Canada in 2009 to marry because her home state of Virginia forbade the union of two women.
“The decision respects our dignity, our love and our full humanity,” said Carmen, her eyes shining as she proudly displayed her polka-dot rainbow colored pants.
Her spouse Ikeita Cantu from Texas held up a sparkling sign that read “Ecstatic.”
A gay men’s choir sang the national anthem. Chants of “U-S-A” burst out of the crowd of hundreds.
Men and women arrived from work in business attire to join the celebration. Equality flags protruded from head bands, pockets, hats and from dog collars.
Tourists mingled in the crowd and snapped pictures saying they wanted to be part of history. One woman said she called her lesbian aunt, now in her 90s, to share the moment.
Her aunt’s partner of 70 years had just died a month ago.
The legal steps toward a constitutional right for same-sex marriage were long and gradual. They started with a stand against discrimination.
It was 1958 that the Supreme Court first ruled that gays have a constitutional right to free speech when it overturned the U.S. Postal Service and the Federal Bureau of Investigations ban on distributing a gay magazine as obscene.
In 1996, it ruled that Colorado cannot deny gays protection against discrimination.
But the Supreme Court took detours along the way -- upholding a Georgia sodomy law in 1986 and backing the Boy Scouts’ ban on gay troop leaders in 2000.
Meanwhile, society at large was changing.
In 2004, Massachusetts became the first state in the nation to legalize same-sex marriage. And in 2010, President Barack Obama allowed gay men and lesbians to serve openly in the military.
The watershed moment came in 2013 when the Supreme Court declared it unconstitutional to deny federal marriage benefits to gay couples. The number of states recognizing gay marriage began to multiply.
The final step in an historic 5-4 decision on Friday was to legalize same-sex marriage nationwide as a guaranteed constitutional right that states cannot ban.
“America might take a while, but eventually it gets it right,” said Cantu.
Reporting by Stella Dawson; Editing by Maria Caspani; Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers humanitarian news, women’s rights, corruption and climate change. Visit www.trust.org