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Supreme Court same-sex marriage ruling: A look with UCLA professor, Prop 8 plaintiff




Supporters of same-sex marriage celebrate outside of the Supreme Court in Washington, Friday June 26, 2015, after the court declared that same-sex couples have a right to marry anywhere in the US. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)
Supporters of same-sex marriage celebrate outside of the Supreme Court in Washington, Friday June 26, 2015, after the court declared that same-sex couples have a right to marry anywhere in the US. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)
Jacquelyn Martin/AP

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The U.S. Supreme Court on Friday ruled that same-sex couples have the right to marry in all 50 states.

The justices voted 5-4, which was the same breakdown when the court struck down DOMA in 2013, said Douglas NeJaime, professor of law and faculty director of the Williams Institute at UCLA. The ruling means that no state can deny marriage licenses to same-sex couples, and their marriages are recognized no matter what state they go to. 

Justice Anthony Kennedy authored the decision, which means he has written all of the High Court's gay rights opinions. The Republican justice also has a history in Sacramento.

"He cares deeply about the stigma that being excluded from constitutional protections can inflict on people, and so you see repeatedly in his opinions, as well as in today's opinion, references to dignity. Justice Kennedy has brought dignity into U.S. jurisprudence more than anyone else," NeJaime said.  

Jeff Zarrillo and his husband, Paul, were plaintiffs in California's Prop. 8 case. Paul made sure to set his alarm early in hopes that he and Paul could catch the announcement on TV. 

"We knew we were in good shape when we heard the cheers," Zarrillo said.

He knows the feeling of walking out of the Supreme Court victorious.

"It's really a majestic experience, if you will," he said. He also said this fight was never just about himself and Paul, but those who had battled for decades to reach this moment.   

"It's also about those people that fought for this when it was a lot harder, and lost their lives in some instances. So this victory is a legacy that they set, and we're celebrating for them today as much as ourselves," Zarrillo said. "This fight was too important not to do it."

While this is the end of the fight for same-sex marriage, Nejaime says other fights are ahead, like religious liberty and anti-discrimination laws.

"A person might exercise their right to get married to someone of the same sex, and yet the next day get fired from their job the next day, and so those kinds of issues are going to persist" he said.

Listen to Jeff Zarillo's interview by clicking the blue audio player above. Douglas NeJaime's full interview can be found in the bonus audio.