Gay marriages and couples have struggled a lot when it comes to trying to find their place in society. Their unions were never recognized, so when did the supreme legalize gay marriage? In the United States, the accessibility of legally-perceived same-sex marriage extended from one state in 2004 to each one of the fifty states in 2015 through different state and federal court decisions, state enactment, and direct popular votes. All of the fifty states have separate marriage laws, which must stick to decisions made by the Supreme Court of the United States that perceive marriage as a central right, that is ensured by both the Due Process Clause and the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution.
Now, according to the law, states cannot keep same-sex couples from marrying and should recognize their unions. This is what the Supreme Court said in one of its rulings and this has been the center of speculation for months. The decision was made on the basis of a 5-4 vote. Justice Anthony Kennedy, who was the pivotal swing vote in the case, wrote the majority of the opinion. The four justices who voted against the ruling were Chief Justice John Roberts, and Justices Antonin Scalia, Clarence Thomas and Samuel Alito and they wrote their own dissenting opinions regarding this. According to Kennedy, same-sex couples “ask for equal dignity in the eyes of the law. The Constitution grants them that right.”
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Supreme Court Decision On Gay Marriage
Apart from Justice Anthony Kennedy, there were four other liberal justices who also rejected claims made by attorneys during the legal proceedings in April. The lawyers argued that the purpose of marriage as described by the law was solely to promote reproduction within stable family units, which is why it could only be applied to men and women. However, their arguments were ruled out and the order that was passed was in favour of gay marriages.
Since Justice Kennedy wrote most of the opinion on this case, we can see the Supreme Court’s take on marriage through his statements. He wrote 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”. He further added that “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”.
Critically, most court rulings mention that in previous cases, the judicial system has often exercised jurisdiction over the definition of marriage and therefore, is not overstepping its constitutional role by interferring in the case of same-sex marriages. Kennedy wrote that “this Court’s cases have expressed constitutional principles of broader reach. In defining the right to marry these cases have identified essential attributes of that right based in history, tradition and other constitutional liberties inherent in this intimate bond”.
Obergefell vs Hodges Summary
Obergefell v. Hodges, is a major civil rights case where the United States Supreme Court ruled that by the Due Process Clause and the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Ammendment in the constitution of the USt, same-sex couple have the basic right to marry, just like a heterosexual couple. According to the 5–4 ruling all of the fifty states, along with the District of Columbia and the Insular Areas have to perform and recognize the marriages of same-sex couples on the same terms and conditions as heterosexual marriages. Moreover, gay couples are to receive all the accompanying rights and responsibilities just as opposite-sex married couples would.
A case was filed in the federal district court between January 2012 and February 2014 by plaintiffs in Michigan, Ohio, Kentucky, and Tennessee. The case filed ended up in Obergefell v. Hodges. These rulings were appealed to the Sixth Circuit after all district courts ruled for the plaintiffs. Then in November 2014, proceeding a long series of appeals and court hearings, after the rulings that year from the Fourth, Seventh, Ninth and Tenth Circuits, that state-level bans on same-sex marriage were unconstitutional, the Sixth Circuit ruled that such bans were constitutional, bound by Baker v. Nelson. Thus, a rift between circuits was formed which resulted in an almost inevitable Supreme Court review.
On June 26, 2015, Obergefell overturned Baker and all states were required to issue marriage certificates to same-sex couples and to recognize same-sex marriages that have been legally performed in other jurisdictions. This set the foundations for same-sex marriages all across the United States and its territories. In light of the majority opinion penned by Justice Anthony Kennedy, the Court assessed the nature of the basic rights assured to all by the constitution, the harm done to individuals by putting off the exercising of such rights, and the growing understanding of discrimination and inequality that has oncreased and developed since Baker. Before Obergefell, same-sex marriages were already founded by law, court ruling, or voter initiative in thirty-six states, along with the District of Columbia and Guam.
Obergefell vs Hodges Dissenting Opinion
Chief Justice John G. Roberts, Jr. composed a dissent in which he contended that, while same-sex marriage may be acceptable and a reasonable policy, the Constitution does not focus on it, and thus it is past the domain of the Court to choose whether or not states need to perceive or permit such unions. Rather, this issue ought to be worked upon by singular state governing bodies dependent on the desire of their electorates. The Constitution and legal point of reference obviously ensure the right to marry and expect states to apply laws with respect to marriage equally, yet the Court cannot violate its limits and participate in legal policymaking. The points of reference regarding the right to marry, just strike down unlawful impediments on marriage as it has been generally characterized, along with government interventions, and hence there is no precedential help for causing a state to modify its meaning of marriage.
Chief Justice Roberts additionally contended that the majority of the opinions depended on an excessively far reaching analysis of the Due Process and Equal Protection Clauses of the Fourteenth Amendment. This is without drawing in with the legal examination customarily applied to such cases and ignoring the correct part of the courts in the democratic process. Justice Antonin Scalia and Justice Clarence Thomas also took part in the dissent. In his separate contradiction, Justice Scalia composed that the majority of the opinions and conclusions, exceeded the limits of the Court’s position both by practicing the administrative instead of legal power and by doing as such in a domain that the Constitution reserves for the states. Justice Scalia contended that the subject of whether same-sex marriage ought to be perceived is one for the state assemblies, and that for the issue to be chosen by delegated judges, conflicts with one of the most essential statutes of the Constitution: that political change ought to happen through the votes of elected representatives.
Joining in the dissent, Justice Thomas also composed a separate dissent where he argued that the majority opinion had twisted and turned the doctrine of substantive due process rights that were established in the Fourteenth Amendment and because of that, had distorted the democratic process by snatching authority from the legislature and placing it in the laps of the judiciary. Justice Thomas also debated upon the fact that the majority opinion went out of bounds when they infringed on religious freedom by legislating from the bench instead of permitting the state legislature to conclude the best way to focus on the competing rights and interests at stake. This dissent was joined by Justice Scalia.
Moreover, Justice Samuel A. Alito, Jr. in his separate dissent, stated that the Constitution does not acknowledge the right that same-sex couples have to marry. Therefore according to him, the issue is reserved to the states to decide whether or not they want to depart from the traditional ideology of marriage. He stated that due to a large part of the Court, in favour of creating a new right, they have critically drifted from the democratic process and have hugely expanded the authority of the judiciary past what the constitution allows. Justice Scalia and Justice Thomas also joined in this dissent.
Regardless of whether someone was in favour of same-sex marriages or not, the court rulings did trigger a storm of decisions among courts all over the country. These rulings, took down state-level bans on gay marriage and sped up a trend due to which the number of states allowing such weddings rose from just two in 2008, to all 50 in 2015, along with the District of Columbia, where a national celebration took place. The United States becomes the 21st country to acknowledge same-sex marriages across the world.