Supreme Court’s Ruling For Equality and Gay Marriage

Posted on Jun 26 2015 - 10:23am by KatieJoy

gay marriage supreme court

The Supreme Court ruled early Friday morning that same-sex partners have a constitutional right to marry, sweeping away state bans on gay unions and extending marriage equality across the nation. The 5-4 decision in Obergefell v. Hodges nullifies restrictions on same-sex marriage in Kentucky, Michigan, Ohio and Tennessee that a Cincinnati-based federal appeals court upheld last year. It also validated a series of lower court opinions that expanded the institution across most of the nation since 2012, following an earlier Supreme Court holding requiring federal recognition of gay and lesbian marriages in states that had chosen to authorize the process.

 

The opinion by Justice Anthony Kennedy caps a rapid shift in legal and societal acceptance of gay marriage over the past decade. It also marks a revolution in U.S. society, one that in the course of a generation saw gay rights move to the front line from the fringes of a national debate over the meaning of equality. Friday’s decision marked the fourth major gay-rights ruling by Justice Kennedy. As at times in the past, he used sweeping language in describing the outcome.

“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,” Justice Kennedy wrote in the 28-page majority opinion.

 

“They ask for equal dignity in the eyes of the law. The Constitution grants them that right.”

 

In states that had continued to bar same-sex marriages, officials began dropping prohibitions and couples moved immediately to seek and obtain marriage licenses. Kentucky Gov. Steve Beshear, a Democrat, said state officials “have been directed to immediately alter any policies necessary to implement the decision from the Supreme Court. Effective today, Kentucky will recognize as valid all same-sex marriages performed in other states and in Kentucky.”

 

Mr. Beshear also said the state would be providing revised marriage license forms to county clerks for immediate use, beginning June 26th.

 

“I think the Supreme Court said for me to issue the license,” Ms. Adams said. “I know there are others coming.”

 

The state attorney general’s office didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment. Justice Kennedy was joined in the majority by the court’s four liberal justices, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Stephen Breyer, Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan. Ahead of the ruling, same-sex marriage was legal in 37 states and the District of Columbia. That included Alabama, where a federal judge had ruled the state must recognize same-sex marriages but put the decision on hold pending the high court’s ruling on the matter.

 

The appeal before the Supreme Court was brought on by 16 gay couples challenging marriage bans in the four states. The couples argued the U.S. Constitution entitles them to unions on the same terms as heterosexuals, and that state restrictions hurt them financially and demean their dignity by denying their unions legal recognition. The four states had argued the courts should defer to the political process, leaving the decision of whether to recognize same-sex unions to the legislatures of each state.

The courtroom was full Friday morning, with people anticipating a blockbuster decision. Among them were Solicitor General Donald Verrilli and former Justice John Paul Stevens. The justices went straight to the marriage ruling at 10 a.m. As the direction of Justice Kennedy’s opinion became clear, smiles emerged from supporters, followed by tears and then hugs. One man took off his glasses, covered his head with his hands and started to weep. As soon as Justice Kennedy ended, Chief Justice Roberts began reading his dissent.

As news of the ruling spread outside the court, gay-rights supporters who had gathered outside the Supreme Court began to celebrate. Cheers erupted and people embraced and began chanting “U.S.A.” Moments after speaking with President Barack Obama by phone, Jim Obergefell, the named plaintiff in the case, said today’s decision validates his fight to have his marriage respected.

 

“I got into this because John and I loved each other—we committed to each other,” he said in an interview. “And our marriage was worth fighting for.”

When he heard the decision, he said, his first thought was: “wow, I really am more fully an American today.” Mr. Obama described the ruling as a “thunderbolt” of justice in what is ordinarily a process of slow, incremental change. “We’ve made our union a little more perfect—that’s the consequence of a decision from the Supreme Court but more importantly it is a consequence of the countless small acts of courage,” he said in remarks delivered in the Rose Garden.

 

Republican presidential candidates in the 2016 race also reacted. Former Arkansas governor and 2016 Republican presidential candidate Mike Huckabee blasted the ruling. “The Supreme Court has spoken with a very divided voice on something only the Supreme Being can do—redefine marriage,” said Mr. Huckabee, a candidate who is a favorite among evangelical conservatives.

Those constitutional bans began to fall after the 2013 U.S. v. Windsor ruling, which invalidated provisions of the federal Defense of Marriage Act. The opinion invoked two strands of reasoning: one indicating Congress should honor states’ definitions of marriage; another suggesting the Defense of Marriage Act served no purpose other than to stigmatize and demean same-sex relationships.

Lower courts overwhelmingly read the Windsor opinion as requiring them to strike down as unconstitutional state marriage restrictions, ending bans in more than a dozen states. While Friday’s ruling deals directly with marriage, it could also lead to changes in laws that can be read to allow discrimination based on sexual orientation. For instance, future legal contests may determine whether tax-exempt religious schools can reject gays and lesbians, and whether private businesses can cite religious reasons for refusing service based on sexual orientation. Though the Supreme Court has been broadly supportive both of religious expression and gay and lesbian equality, the ultimate resolution of such conflicts remained unclear.