July 14, 2015 Articles

Supreme Court Rules in Favor of Same-Sex Marriage

By Mark Hamby

With a 5–4 majority and Justice Kennedy writing the opinion, the right to marry became a fundamental right for everyone, nationwide, including same-sex couples. The Court’s decision to review a decision out of the Sixth Circuit denying same-sex couples the right to marry or have a marriage recognized followed a string of denials by the Supreme Court to review decisions from other circuits holding in favor of the right to marry—including decisions from the Fourth, Seventh, Ninth, and Tenth Circuits. See Kitchen v. Herbert, (10th Cir. 06/25/2014) (Utah); Bishop v. Smith, (10th Cir. 07/18/2015) (Oklahoma); Bostic v. Schaefer, (4th Cir. 07/28/14) (Virginia); Baskin v. Bogan, (7th Cir. 09/04/2014) (Indiana); Wolf v. Walker, (7th Cir. 09/04/2014) (Wisconsin); Latta v. Otter, (9th Cir. 10/07/2014) (Idaho); Sevcik v. Sandoval, (9th Cir. 10/07/2014) (Nevada).

The Sixth Circuit case included decisions out of each of the Circuit’s states, Michigan, Ohio, Kentucky, and Tennessee, and was consolidated as Obergefell v. Hodges, 576 U.S. ____, (2015); Obergefell is the cases of Obergefell v. Hodges, from Ohio; Tanco v. Haslam, from Tennessee; DeBoer v. Snyder, from Michigan; and Bourke v. Beshear, from Kentucky. In Michigan and Kentucky the issue was whether the states were required to issue marriage licenses for same-sex couples. In Ohio, Tennessee, and Kentucky, the issue was whether those states were required to recognize marriages by same-sex couples married in states where same-sex marriage was legal. All four states outlawed same-sex marriage, and in all four states, the U.S. district courts had ruled the state statutes or constitutional provisions unconstitutional. The Sixth Circuit consolidated the cases and overruled the district court decisions from all four states. Then, on June 26, 2015, the Supreme Court reversed the Sixth Circuit finding that the right to marry is fundamental pursuant to the Fourteenth Amendment. As a result, it is now legal in every state for same-sex couples to marry, notwithstanding any state constitutional or statutory provisions to the contrary.

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