2015 June 26

Same-Sex Marriage Constitutional ! – Supreme Court Rules


The Supreme Court on this day ruled that same-sex marriages are protected by the Constitution. In the case of Obergefell v. Hodges, the court ruled 5-4 that same-sex marriages are are protected by the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote the majority opinion and was joined by the four liberals on the court, Stephen Breyer, Ruth Bader Ginsberg, Sonia Sotomayor, and Elena Kagan.

James Obergefell of Cincinnati, Ohio, brought the case seeking to have his name listed as the surviving spouse of his partner John Arthur, then terminally ill, on Mr. Arthur’s death certificate. The two men legally married each other in Maryland in July 2013. John Arthur died in October 2013.

The decision made the United States the twenty-first and most populous country in the world to legalize same-sex marriages. At the time of the decision, thirty-seven states in the U.S. had legalized same-sex marriage either by statute or court decisions. Within hours of the decision being announced, in states where it had still been illegal (such as Nebraska), same-sex couples went to court houses, obtained their marriage licenses, and were married.

The decision provoked an angry dissent by Justice Antonin Scalia that was excessive (and embarrassing) even by the standards of his own record for dissents. Justice Clarence Thomas, in an equally weird dissent responding to Justice Kennedy’s opinion regarding dignity, argued that slaves had dignity because the government cannot take away a person’s dignity.

One year later, a Gallup survey estimated that 123,000 same-sex marriages occurred since the Supreme Court’s decisions. The survey also estimated that the percentage of gay or lesbian cohabiting couples who are married increased from 38 to 49 percent.

By weird coincidence, the Supreme Court’s three key decisions on homosexuality were all decided on June 26th: Lawrence v. Texas (June 26, 2003), Windsor v. New York (June 26, 2013), and today’s Obergefell v. Hodges.

The Court: “The right to marry is a fundamental right inherent in the liberty of the person, and under the Due Process and Equal Protection Clauses of the Fourteenth Amendment couples of the same-sex may not be deprived of that right and that liberty. Same-sex couples may exercise the fundamental right to marry.”

Read about the history of the GLBT revolution: Lillian Faderman, The Gay Revolution: The Story of the Struggle (2015)

Learn more about same-sex marriage at Lambda Legal: http://www.lambdalegal.org/issues/marriage-relationships-and-family-protections

Learn more at a timeline on same-sex marriage in America: http://www.freedomtomarry.org/pages/history-and-timeline-of-marriage

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