Love Wins: The Supreme Court Overturns All Same-Sex Marriage Bans

The Supreme Court of the United States on Friday ruled 5-4 that bans on same-sex marriage are unconstitutional, thereby essentially legalizing same-sex marriage across the United States.

The decision came down to the usual liberal split with Justices Stephen BreyerRuth Bader GinsburgElena KaganSonia Sotomayor, and swing vote Justice Anthony Kennedy who writes for the majority. In what was a disappointing but not unexpected move, Chief Justice John Roberts sided with Justices Scalia, Alito and Thomas in dissenting.

In a decision that strikes down not just the Sixth Circuit’s bans on marriage equality but all remaining bans across the United States, the Court says:

No union is more profound than marriage, for it embodies the highest ideals of love, fidelity, devotion, sacrifice, and family. In forming a marital union, two people become something greater than once they were. 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. Their plea is that they do respect it, respect it so deeply that they seek to find its fulfillment for themselves. Their hope is not to be condemned to live in loneliness, excluded from one of civilization’s oldest institutions. They ask for equal dignity in the eyes of the law. The Constitution grants them that right.

On the chief argument that marriage as an institution could be damaged, the opinion says:

That argument, however, rests on a counter-intuitive view of opposite-sex couple’s decision making processes regarding marriage and parenthood. Decisions about whether to marry and raise children are based on many personal, romantic, and practical considerations; and it is unrealistic to conclude that an opposite-sex couple would choose not to marry simply because same-sex couples may do so.

As to the charge–leveled by Chief Justice John Roberts in his lengthy dissent–that the Court may have acted before public discourse has played out, the Majority has no time for that argument and points out:

Yet there has been far more deliberation than this argument acknowledges. There have been referenda, legislative debates, and grassroots campaigns, as well as countless studies, papers, books, and other popular and scholarly writings. There has been extensive litigation in state and federal courts.

[...]

The dynamic of our constitutional system is that individuals need not await legislative action before asserting a fundamental right. The Nation’s courts are open to injured individuals who come to them to vindicate their own direct, personal stake in our basic charter. An individual can invoke a right to constitutional protection when he or she is harmed, even if the broader public disagrees and even if the legislature refuses to act.

And on the matter of religious liberty, the Majority says:

Finally, it must be emphasized that religions, and those who adhere to religious doctrines, may continue to advocate with utmost, sincere conviction that, by divine precepts, same-sex marriage should not be condoned. The First Amendment ensures that religious organizations and persons are given proper protection as they seek to teach the principles that are so fulfilling and so central to their lives and faiths, and to their own deep aspirations to continue the family structure they have long revered. The same is true of those who oppose same-sex marriage for other reasons. In turn, those who believe allowing same-sex marriage is proper or indeed essential, whether as a matter of religious conviction or secular belief, may engage those who disagree with their view in an open and searching debate.

Advocates had worried that the Court might in some way leave open a religious liberty claim to deny same-sex marriages but, by framing it against the sincere belief that others have that their religion demands marriage equality, the Court seems to have provided a careful balance. No doubt more analysis on that topic will emerge in the weeks ahead.

Background on this Case

The case, known as Obergefell v Hodge, is a consolidation of cases including Jim Obergefell’s case challenging Ohio’s failure to recognize his out-of-state same-sex marriage, as well as challenges to bans in Tennessee (Tanco v. Haslam), Michigan (DeBoer v. Snyder), and Kentucky (Bourke v. Beshear).

All of those cases hinged on two important questions: Does the Fourteenth Amendment require a State to license a marriage between people of the same sex? And does it require states to recognize such marriages that were lawfully licensed and performed from outside their borders?

The namesake of the case, Jim Oberfefell, is from Ohio. He married his dying partner John Arthur in Maryland not long after the Supreme Court ruling of 2013 that struck Section 3 of DOMA. The couple sued their home state of Ohio which would not recognize their marriage and so would not see Jim Obergefell as a surviving spouse. A federal judge ruled this denial of recognition was unlawful. That, along with a number of other opinions, was challenged at the Sixth District Court of Appeals which, unlike any other appellate court at the time, ruled that there was sufficient doubt about whether the Fourteenth Amendment applied and whether there was a “compelling constitutional question” over same-sex marriage. This triggered the review from the Supreme Court which, by ruling that there is a constitutional right to same-sex marriage, reverses that opinion.

Timing of This Decision is Also Historic

The timing of this ruling is also significant. Twelve years ago on Friday the 26th of June the Supreme Court ruled to overturn Texas’ sodomy ban in Lawrence v. Texas which made every such ban across the US unenforceable and, essentially, legalized homosexuality in the United States.

Then, on the same date in 2013 the Supreme Court overturned Section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act in Windsor v. United States, finding that Congress had exceeded its power and infringed on Constitutionally protected rights and state sovereignty by refusing to recognize state-sanctioned same-sex marriages. That ruling was a narrow one and purposefully left open the question of whether states could lawfully ban same-sex marriages and refuse to recognize those that are carried out in other states.

The timing then gives today’s decision added potency, as does Justice Kennedy’s delivering the majority opinion, which he has in a number of other major gay rights cases including Windsor.

Obviously, June is also Pride month, making this victory just a little sweeter still.

Where Do We Go From Here?

There will undoubtedly be some push-back in the coming weeks and months. Tea Party Republicans in particular have made it no secret that they will attempt to defy this court ruling.

Thirty-five states already recognize same-sex marriages. Fifteen states had not, though some had patchwork recognition and various levels of court rulings favoring marriage equality or challenging those bans. It could take days or even weeks for those bans to be lifted, or state officials could simply concede the ruling and as a matter of state policy say same-sex marriages should be recognized as soon as possible. Under the second scenario, marriages could begin within very little time at all. Updates will follow on that issue when more details emerge. 

But, in the mean time, to all the same-sex couples everywhere in the United States today, or those single people looking forward to marrying someone in the coming years, congratulations! Love wins.

love-care2 (1)

369 comments

John W.
3 years ago

Thank you for sharing.

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John W.
3 years ago

Thank you for sharing.

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Siyus Copetallus
Siyus Copetallus3 years ago

Thank you for sharing.

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John W.
3 years ago

Timothy W,

Here is an interesting article about homosexuality in animals. It is from the BBC, hardly a homophobic organisation.

http://www.bbc.com/earth/story/20150206-are-there-any-homosexual-animals

Does same sex marriages have implications for religious institutions

http://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2015/06/26/how-a-supreme-court-decision-for-gay-marriage-would-affect-religious-institutions/

I haven't forgotten about our conversation, the difficulty I face is find research that doesn't appear biased for or against. I am finding that to many groups, and I am including Christians in that statement, set out with preconceived ideas and set about finding evidence to support that idea. That's poor science; as I am sure you know, one should look at the evidence then draw conclusions.

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BMutiny TCorporationsEvil
Barbara T3 years ago

John W: I wuz just ACKNOWLEDGING that I saw your explanation about my name-error - no Negativity intended! Just a snide swipe at your SPELL-CHECK - "Unity" on the Bounty? Har har.
Just meant for Closure!

Will be following your and Timothy's discussion, it seems civilized and interesting...

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Timothy W.
Timothy W3 years ago

John W.
That is all I ask, consider the sources, especially when the findings could have adverse effects on individual lives, and that sounds to me what you are attempting. I will be interested to read what you find.

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John W.
3 years ago

Timothy,
Believe it or not, but I don't like tarring every one with the same brush. I have been reading through the sources I had and have found them sorely lacking; that is why I haven't posted them. As I said, I will review my opinion. However, I don't like catastrophic conversions. So I will think further upon this topic.

BMutiny,
As I have explained why your name was appearing incorrectly, I don't see why you keep bringing it up!
I have gone and reread Humanae Vitae by Pope Paul VI and reviewed Catholic doctrine. Whilst my explanation might have seemed simplistic to you - being such an amazing intellectual that you are - I think my explanation was correct. It was the explanation my Godmother gave to me.

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BMutiny TCorporationsEvil
Barbara T3 years ago

Geez, so the Spell Check would have MUNITY on the Bounty? ;- ]
Okay, got it.....

Well if the present Pope CAN find a reason to change the Catholic Church's stance on Birth Control - however far-fetched it may sound - I'M ALL FOR IT. I'd give him the Benefit of the Doubt, without a qualm.....

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Timothy W.
Timothy W3 years ago

continued
I hope some day you will be able to see in your heart how harmful and hurtful your line of thought can be to other innocent people based on ideas form people who have know real practical experience or knowledge on the subject.

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Timothy W.
Timothy W3 years ago

John W.
Let me know what you find. Despite what you probably believe, my eyes are open. Although I am skeptical that you will find research showing Same Gender Marriage being a negative impact on society, I am always willing to look and research. A couple things you might consider during your research, Watch for studies talking about gay culture as a whole. LGBT people encompass as much of society as heterosexuals do. Some go to bars and slut around, some go to church and wait for the one and only. I for instance have not dated since I broke up with my ex after catching him playing around. He was the one for me and I just haven't been able to venture back out in the dating pool since. That was 1997.

My point is that just as in the heterosexual community there are many of us and we encompass the whole rainbow just as heterosexuals. I have been living with my roommate for 20 years. He went through the whole break up with me. We live as a couple without the physical relationship. For twenty years. That is much longer than most heterosexuals last. Most people that know me think I am nuts and should have married him a long long time ago. I always tell them that the law didn't allow it. Now it does and I think it is a shame that I let people who are ignorant about LGBT people affect my life so drastically. I hope some day you will be able to see in your heart how harmful and hurtful your line of thought can be to other innocent people based on ideas form people who have know re

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