Transcript for Supreme Court Bolsters Gay Marriage Rights
A night when america has a new definition of what it means to be married. The supreme court said today federal law must change. There must be equality for same sex couples who marry. And the implications are sweeping. Outside the courtroom, jubilation. Some overcome with tears. Many filled with joy, knowing that the court had instantly created a different future. Abc's terry moran was right there for this landmark ruling, and he leads us off now. Terry? Reporter: Diane, you're right. What an extraordinary day it was here. Uncertainty and answxiety before the decision came down and when this ruling was handed down, it was like a dam burst emotionally. Here and across the country. It was a day this court changed not only american law, but american life. The moment of victory. The two gay couples who brought the case from california and their lawyers emerging into a different america. Across the country, jubilation among supporters of same sex marriage. A champagne toast in new york. Tears and hugs in san francisco. And edie windsor, 84 years old, who brought the case seeking to overturn the federal law that denied the validity of her marriage, declared victory. We won everything we asked and hoped for. Wow. Reporter: The court, in a five to four opinion by justice anthony kennedy, struck down the defense of marriage act, which defined marriage under federal law as the union of one man and one woman, and thus denied legally married gay couples equal treatment under federal law. And that is unconstitutional, kennedy wrote, because it demeans the couple. Humiliating tens of thousands of children now being raised by gay couples. Serves no legitimate purpose and vie laments the constitutions guarantee of equality. In california, abc's see veal ya vega talked with the dumesnil-viekers family, who say they always felt a little different, but not any more. What it means for us legally is that the marriage license that I got in california in 2008 now holds the same value as the marriage of every other person on my block. Reporter: What does that do for your mom? It's really exciting because now is equal and we don't have to worry. Reporter: From social security and veterans' benefits, to family leave and income and estate taxes, their lives are now equal in countless ways under the law to straight couples lives. But kennedy's grand opinion drew a blistering dissent from justice antonin scalia who called today's ruling jaw dropping and accused kennedy and the liberal justices of declaring anyone opposed to same sex marng an enemy of human decen decency. Millions of americans who cherish traditional marriage will agree. It is a sad day when unelected judges change the definition of marriage and turn their backs on the will of the voters. Reporter: But the court stopped short of declaring that every state must allow gay marriage, sending the challenge to california's proposition 8, which banned gay marriage, back to the lower courts on technical grounds, effectively legalizing gay marriage in california. So the couples that brought the case -- mr. You please marry me? Reporter: Will wed. We could not have imagined we would have to go on this journey to get married. I'm proud to be here and I am just thrilled that i actually get to marry the woman that I love. Reporter: It was a day many supporters of gay marriage rights believed would never come. Outside the court, the gay men's chorus of washington d.C. Lifted their voices in pride, singing our national anthem. ♪ An the rockets' red glare ♪ ah, terry, it's great to have you reporting on the supreme court. And you've been covering this court, you've been watching their rulings for some 20 years. Give us a sense tonight of the big picture, how will the arc of history see this day? Reporter: It was history, diane. As we've been saying. And not just because what this court did was extraordinary, whenever it strikes down an act of congress, that's rare. It not only struck down the defense of marriage act and legalized gay marriage in california, it's the language in this opinion. As you pointed out at the top, the court today broadened and deepened the meaning of every quality in our constitution. The central principle of american life. And that goes way beyond marriage. Justice kennedy used the word dignity nine times in his opinion. And it's that basic human dignity that he said is shared by gay couples and straight couples that is now enshrined in american law. It's going to be very hard from today, going forward, to pass laws that discriminate against americans on the basis of their sexual orientation. This is a law which applies -- decision which applies to specific laws, buzz those principles have far-reaching effects. Terry moran reporting in from the steps of the supreme court today.
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