DAVID GREENE, HOST:
The United States Supreme Court has ruled this morning in a 5-4 decision that same-sex couples have the right to marry nationwide. Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote the majority opinion. We're joined on the line now from the Supreme Court by NPR's Nina Totenberg. Nina, good morning.
NINA TOTENBERG, BYLINE: Good morning.
GREENE: So tell us about the scene there. What was the reaction at the court when this opinion was read?
TOTENBERG: Well, it was quite an amazing reaction. In the audience were lots and lots of lawyers who had worked for many years on the question of gay rights, gay marriage. And there was crying, weeping. There was a lot of hugging when the court finally adjourned. I heard one person say oh, my god, I can't believe it. It was quite a dramatic scene.
GREENE: And what about the dissenting opinions when they were read - reaction to them? - because they were very forceful.
TOTENBERG: Well, the chief justice said that - he spoke for the four in the minority. And he said, from the dawn of human history, marriage was defined as between a man and a woman. But today, five lawyers have redefined marriage. Just who do we think we are? I have no choice but to dissent.
And then he went on to say that this was - showed disrespect for the democratic process and would, in the long run, hurt same-sex couples because they would not know that - have the satisfaction of knowing that they had been able to persuade the majority of people in their state to endorse same-sex marriage.
In contrast, Justice Kennedy said that - he acknowledged that the - from the dawn of human history, marriage had been defined as between a man and a woman. But he said in recent decades, that has begun to change and that largely, marriage was between a man and woman because homosexuality had been condemned, criminalized, deemed an illness. And people who - of the same sex who shared intimacy could not reveal what was in their hearts. And so today he said - and then he said that hundreds of thousands of children were living with same-sex couples, being raised by same-sex couples. They were stigmatized, humiliated, and he said - he went on to say that many opposed to same-sex marriage hold sincere beliefs, but when sincere beliefs become law, they cannot deny the liberty guaranteed by the Constitution. The court now holds that same-sex couples may marry in all states.
GREENE: Nina, it feels like one of those decisions that are going to be in history books and read by students who study government, students who cover - who study U.S. history for many years to come, probably.
TOTENBERG: Oh, absolutely. I mean, when you say the word landmark, this is a landmark. This is probably right up there with Brown v. Board of Education and Roe v. Wade, if you like it or hate it. And today, Obergefell versus Hodges. And this is - this was a historic moment. This is why it's sometimes great to be a reporter 'cause you get to witness history.
GREENE: That's NPR's legal affairs correspondent Nina Totenberg on the line from the Supreme Court. Thank you, Nina.
TOTENBERG: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.