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Obergefell v. Hodges

Citation. 576 U.S. __, 135 S.Ct. 2584, 192 L.Ed.2d 609 (2015).

Brief Fact Summary.

Several same-sex couple challenged the constitutionality of their respective states’ bans on same-sex marriage or refusal to recognize same-sex marriages performed in other jurisdictions.

Synopsis of Rule of Law.

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 14th Amendment.

Facts.

Same sex couples in Ohio, Michigan, Kentucky, and Tennessee sued their respective state agents. Each state defined marriage as union between one man and one woman. The couples challenged the constitutionality of state bans on same-sex marriage or the refusal to recognize same-sex marriages performed in other jurisdictions under the Equal Protection Clause and Due Process Clause of the 14th Amendment.

Issue.

Whether the state bans violated the Equal Protection and Due Process Clauses of the 14th Amendment.

Held.

Yes. The state bans violated the Equal Protection and Due Process Clauses of the 14th Amendment.

Dissent.

Justice Roberts

This Court is not a legislature. It should be left for individual states to decide. The majority’s decision is an act of will, not legal judgement.

Justice Scalia

I agree with the Chief Justice’s opinion in full. I write separately to call attention to this Court’s threat to American democracy. The public debate over same-sex marriage must be allowed to continue.

Justice Thomas

The Court’s decision is at odds not only with the Constitution, but with the principles upon which our nation was built. Liberty has been understood from the beginning as freedom from government action, not entitlement to government benefits. Yet the majority invokes our Constitution in the name of a “liberty” that the Framers would not have recognized.

Justice Alito

The majority claim authority to confer constitutional protection on the freedom to marry simply because they believe it is fundamental. By imposing its own views on the entire country, the majority facilitates the marginalization of the many Americans who have traditional ideas.

Discussion.

There are four principals and traditions which demonstrate the reasons marriage is fundamental under the Constitution and applies with equal force to same-sex couples. First, the right to personal choice in marriage is inherent in the concept of individual autonomy. There is dignity in the bond between couples, whatever their sexual orientation may be. Second, marriage supports a two-person union unlike any other relationship, responding to the universal fear of loneliness. Third, marriage safeguards children and families, affording permanency and stability important to children’s best interests. Fourth and finally, this Court’s cases and nation’s traditions make it clear that marriage is a keystone of our social order, It remains a building block of our community. Judgements reversed.

As such, the right of same-sex couples to marry is part of the liberty promised by the 14th Amendment. The Due Process Clause of the 14th Amendment guarantees the right to marry as a fundament interest, regardless of sexual orientation. The Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment also guarantees the freedom to marry, as denial of that right would be to deny equal protection under the law. It is clear the challenged laws burden the liberty of same-sex couples, and it must be further acknowledge that they abridge central precepts of equality.


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