Brief Fact Summary.
A group of same-sex couples sued their relevant state agencies to challenge the constitutionality of their states’ bans on same-sex marriage or refusal to recognize legal same-sex marriages that occurred in jurisdictions that provided for such marriages.
Synopsis of Rule of Law.
The liberties protected by the Fourteenth Amendment include the right of both heterosexual and same-sex couples to marry. Laws prohibiting gay marriage result in the unequal treatment of couples, the depriving of same-sex couples of key benefits of the institution of marriage, as well as the burdening of liberties related to marriage in ways that violate the Fourteenth Amendment Due Process and Equal Protection Clauses.
This Court has rejected that approach, both with respect to the right to marry and the rights of gays and lesbians.View Full Point of Law
A group of same-sex couples sued their relevant state agencies in Ohio, Michigan, Kentucky, and Tennessee to challenge the constitutionality of those states’ bans on same-sex marriage or refusal to recognize legal same-sex marriages that occurred in jurisdictions that provided for such marriages. The plaintiffs in each case argued that the states’ statutes violated the Equal Protection Clause and Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment.
Must states issue marriage licenses and recognize lawful out-of-state marriages for same-sex couples?
Yes, because same-sex couples have a constitutional right to marry under the Due Process Clause and Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment.
Although there are strong arguments for the inherent fairness in recognizing same-sex marriages, this should be left to individual states to decide. The Constitution does not define marriage, and states should be free to define it as they will.
The democratic process and public debate over same-sex marriage must be allowed to continue. The Court’s decision has taken from the people a question properly belonging to them.
The states have not restricted same-sex couples’ ability to go about their daily lives. Rather, the states have refused to grant them governmental entitlements. Receiving governmental recognition and benefits has nothing to do with any understanding of “liberty” that the Framers would have recognized.
It is beyond the reach of the Court’s authority to say that a state may not adhere to the understanding of marriage that has long prevailed. Today’s decision will be used to vilify Americans who are unwilling to assent to the new orthodoxy.
The Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment guarantees the right to marry as one of the fundamental liberties it protects, and that analysis applies to same-sex couples in the same manner as it does to opposite-sex couples. Judicial precedent has held that the right to marry is a fundamental liberty because it is inherent to the concept of individual autonomy, it protects the most intimate association between two people, it safeguards children and families by according legal recognition to building a home and raising children, and it has historically been recognized as the cornerstone of society. Because there are no differences between a same-sex union and an opposite-sex union with respect to these principles, the exclusion of same-sex couples from the right to marry violates the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment.
The Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment also guarantees the right of same-sex couples to marry, as the denial of that right would deny same-sex couples equal protection under the law.
The liberty interest protected by due process intersects with the right to equal protection, and same-sex marriage bans violate both.