The case of Obergefell v Hodges was a landmark case for same-sex marriage. The case revolved around several same-sex couples suing their prospective states for their marriage to be upheld and recognized in their states. The group was challenging that their refusal to recognize same-sex marriage was a violation of the Equal Protection Clause and Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. One group also brought claims under the Civil Rights Act. In all trial court cases, the courts found in favor of the plaintiffs. The U.S. Court of appeals reversed the opinion. It held that the states ban on same-sex marriage and refusal to recognize marriages performed in other states did not violate the couple’s Fourteenth Amendment rights to equal protection and due process. The case moved forward to the U.S. Supreme Court.
Two questions were asked of the U.S. Supreme Court: (1) does the Fourteenth Amendment require a state to license a marriage between two people of the same sex? (2) Does the Fourteenth Amendment need a state to recognize a marriage between two people of the same sex that was legally licensed and performed in another state? The U.S. Supreme Court in a 5-4 decision of “yes” to both questions. Justice Anthony Kennedy delivered the opinion that “The Constitution promises liberty to all within its reach, a liberty that includes certain specific rights that allow persons, within a lawful realm, to define and express their identity. The petitioners in these cases seek to find that liberty by marrying someone of the same sex and having their marriages deemed lawful on the same terms and conditions as marriages between persons of the opposite sex” (Obergefell v. Hodges, 576 U.S. ___ (2015), n.d.). The opinion goes on to talk about three individual instances where same-sex couples experienced hardships due to same-sex marriage laws. The story was meant to show that their decisions are not seeking to denigrate marriage, but to let people live their lives, hour their spouses, and be joined in bond (Obergefell v. Hodges, 576 U.S. ___ (2015), n.d.).
The rights of gays and lesbians since the pre-20th century have always been faced with ridicule and suggestions that their homosexuality is a mental illness. History is full of examples where groups stood up for their rights against what is considered the norm, to be free to vote for whatever injustice was there. So, no matter which side of the fence you stand on with the same-sex marriage, the legality of the issue was that a group of people was being denied their life and liberty based on their personal choice. Justice Kennedy wrote, “These new insights have strengthened, not weakened, the institution of marriage. Indeed, changed understandings of marriage are characteristic of a Nation where new dimensions of freedom become apparent to new generations, often through perspectives that begin in pleas or protests and then are considered in the political sphere and the judicial process” (Obergefell v. Hodges, 576 U.S. ___ (2015), n.d.).
Murray, M. (2016). Obergefell v. Hodges and Nonmarriage Inequality. California Law Review, 104(5), 1207.
Obergefell v. Hodges. (n.d.). Oyez. Retrieved March 31, 2020, from https://www.oyez.org/cases/2014/14-556
Obergefell v. Hodges, 576 U.S. ___ (2015). (n.d.). Justia Law. Retrieved March 30, 2020, from https://supreme.justia.com/cases/federal/us/576/14-556/
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