Washington - The Supreme Court's four more liberal justices joined Justice Anthony Kennedy, who wrote for the majority in the historic decision to legalise gay rights in the United States. The court voted 5-4 in the ruling.
The single final paragraph of Justice Kennedy's ruling went viral online, racking up shares on social networks across the world.
He wrote: "No union is more profound than marriage, for it embodies the highest ideals of love, fidelity, devotion, sacrifice and family. In forming a marital union, two people become something greater than once they were. As some of the petitioners in these cases demonstrate, marriage embodies a love that may endure even past death. It would misunderstand these men and women to say they disrespect the idea of marriage. Their plea is that they do respect it, respect it so deeply that they seek to find its fulfilment for themselves. Their hope is not to be condemned to live in loneliness, excluded from one of civilisation's oldest institutions. They ask for equal dignity in the eyes of the law. The Constitution grants them that right. The judgment of the Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit is reversed. It is so ordered."
Each member of the court's conservative wing filed a separate dissent, in tones ranging from resigned dismay to bitter scorn.
Friday's decision made same-sex marriage a reality in the 13 states that had continued to ban it.
The ruling reflected an astonishing shift in public sentiment around same-sex marriage, which now has majority - though hardly universal - support.
More than half of Americans, or 54 per cent, believe that there should be a federal law regarding same-sex marriages in all 50 states, and 57 per cent of them support legalising it, according to a New York Times/ CBS News Poll that was published last week.
New York Times