"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 Fourteenth Amendment couples of the same-sex may not be deprived of that right and that liberty. Same-sex couples may exercise the fundamental right to marry."
- Supreme Court syllabus on Obergefell et al. v. Hodges decision
The U.S. Supreme Court ruled in favor of marriage equality!
On June 26th, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled on Obergefell et al. v. Hodges, a case in which same-sex couples argued that laws banning same-sex marriage in Kentucky, Michigan, Ohio and Tennessee violated their Fourteenth Amendment rights. In a 5-4 decision, the Supreme Court ruled in favor of the couples, according to the Associated Press. "The Fourteenth Amendment requires a State to license a marriage between two people of the same sex," the court decided. The U.S. has joined with over twenty other countries that recognize same-sex marriage, according to the Washington Post.
President Obama, Hillary Clinton, and political leaders from around the country praised the decision. LGBTQ equality advocates were jubilant, while same-sex marriage opponents were deeply unhappy.
State governors have reacted to the ruling in different ways. The Associated Press reports that Michigan Governor Rick Snyder said that his state would comply with the Supreme Court's decision. Tennessee Governor Bill Haslam said that his state would "fully comply with the law," according to Local Memphis. However, the New Orleans Times-Picayune reports that Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal refuses to recognize same-sex marriage in his state. The New York Daily News states that Texas Governor Greg Abbott, is resisting the ruling as well.
The Supreme Court syllabus on the decision listed four principles legitimizing same-sex marriage: individual autonomy, the importance of marriage as an intimate union, the need to safeguard children and families, and the right of same-sex couples to take part in an institution that serves as "a keystone of the Nation's social order." The last two principles made me smile, as they take familiar Religious Right arguments against same-sex marriage and turn them on their heads.
The syllabus rejects the notion of marriage as rigid and unchanging, observing that marriage has evolved throughout history in ways that have strengthened the institution.
"The history of marriage is one of both continuity and change. Changes, such as the decline of arranged marriages and the abandonment of the law of coverture, have worked deep transformations in the structure of marriage, affecting aspects of marriage once viewed as essential. These new insights have strengthened, not weakened, the institution. Changed understandings of marriage are characteristic of a Nation where new dimensions of freedom become apparent to new generations."The majority opinion of the court, Justice Anthony Kennedy speaks warmly of the petitioners, arguing that their desire to wed shows respect for the institution of marriage, not disrespect.
"No union is more profound than marriage, for it embodies the highest ideals of love, fidelity, devotion, sacrifice, and family. In forming a marital union, two people become something greater than once they were. As some of the petitioners in these cases demonstrate, marriage embodies a love that may endure even past death. It would misunderstand these men and women to say they disrespect the idea of marriage. Their plea is that they do respect it, respect it so deeply that they seek to find its fulfillment for themselves. Their hope is not to be condemned to live in loneliness, excluded from one of civilization’s oldest institutions. They ask for equal dignity in the eyes of the law. The Constitution grants them that right."Finally, the U.S. Supreme Court has recognized the equality of LGBTQ citizens under the law by ruling in favor of marriage equality. The struggle was won by advocates working tirelessly to shift public opinion and enlist allies to the cause. In spite of all its hate-mongering, the Religious Right was unable to deny marriage equality to LGBTQ persons in the nation's highest court.
The significance of this ruling cannot be overstates. Just a few decades ago, homosexuality was cast as a psychopathology and LGBTQ people were invisible. Thanks to the hard work of LGBTQ people and their allies, public attitudes have changed, and prejudiced laws are being swept aside. We've come so far, and we can't stop now.
Now that the struggle for marriage equality has been won, supporters of LGBTQ equality can focus on other issues facing the LGBTQ community. Housing and employment discrimination, hate violence, and homelessness are just some of the problems facing the LGBTQ community. Now that advocates are energized from the Supreme Court decision, I know they'll have the energy to tackle these issues and more.
To read additional commentary, visit the following links.
Huffington Post: Antonin Scalia Dissent In Marriage Equality Case Is Even More Unhinged Than You'd Think
Mother Jones: The 19 Best Lines From the Supreme Court Decision That Just Legalized Gay Marriage
Pennlive: The Supremes got it right - It's no longer 'gay marriage.' It's 'marriage.' And we're better for it
The Guardian: What same-sex marriage reform could mean for the LGBT youths of America