U.S. Supreme Court holds federal constitution authorizes same-sex marriage and prohibits failure to recognize

Obergefell v. Hodges 14–556 (June 26, 2015).

The U.S. Supreme Court held the Fourteenth Amendment requires a State to license a marriage between two people of the same sex and to recognize a same sex marriage when lawfully licensed and performed out-of-State.  The opinion and dissents are fairly long with the syllabus being 5 pages alone. Due to the length this summary will only touch on the highpoints. The implication for local government attorneys are any regulations which rely upon Texas Constitution art. I, §32 banning same-sex marriage].

Michigan, Kentucky, Ohio, and Tennessee, define marriage as a union between one man and one woman. The petitioners are 14 same-sex couples and two men whose same-sex partners are deceased. The respondents are state officials responsible for enforcing the laws in question. The petitioners claim the respondents violate the Fourteenth Amendment by denying them the right to marry or to have their marriages, lawfully performed in another State, given full recognition (such as the failure to give death benefits as a spouse or to adopt children).

The Court spent time going through the history of the marriage institution including arrange marriages, political marriages, the doctrine of coverture (man and woman treated as single male entity), etc. and how the concept has changed over time for the better.  The nature of marriage is that “two persons together can find other freedoms, such as expression, intimacy, and spirituality.”  The right to marry is fundamental.  Families with two parents (regardless of sex) also provide more stable environments for children. Based on these principles, there is no legitimate basis to distinguish between same and opposite sex marriage.  Having a lawful marriage in one state forbidden from recognition in another also violates the U.S. Constitution.

The dissents essentially argue that the topic is one for the legislature to decide, not the Court. It is also an issue of state’s rights and their ability to define marriage.

[Comment: Texas Constitution art. I, §32 banning same-sex marriage was already called into question in De Leon v. Perry, 975 F. Supp. 2d 632, 639 (W.D. Tex. 2014) as violating Full Faith and Credit Clause.]

If you would like to read this opinions click here. KENNEDY, J., delivered the opinion of the Court, in which GINSBURG, BREYER, SOTOMAYOR, and KAGAN, JJ., joined. ROBERTS, C. J., filed a dissenting opinion, in which SCALIA and THOMAS, JJ., joined. SCALIA, J., filed a dissenting opinion, in which THOMAS, J., joined. THOMAS, J., filed a dissenting opinion, in which SCALIA, J., joined. ALITO, J., filed a dissenting opinion, in which SCALIA and THOMAS, JJ., joined.