"Obergefell v. Hodges" (2015) is a landmark decision by the U.S. Supreme Court that significantly advanced civil rights in the United States, particularly with respect to same-sex marriage. The ruling effectively legalized same-sex marriage nationwide, representing a major victory for the LGBTQ+ community.
- Multiple Lawsuits: The case consolidated several individual lawsuits from Michigan, Ohio, Kentucky, and Tennessee. Each involved same-sex couples who challenged their state's refusal to grant them marriage licenses or recognize their marriages lawfully performed in other states.
- James Obergefell: The lead plaintiff, James Obergefell, sued the state of Ohio to be listed as the surviving spouse on his deceased partner's death certificate.
The Legal Issues:
- Fourteenth Amendment: The core legal question was whether the Fourteenth Amendment requires states to license a marriage between two people of the same sex and to recognize a same-sex marriage licensed and performed in another state.
- 5-4 Majority: In a 5-4 decision, the Supreme Court ruled in favor of the plaintiffs.
- Opinion by Justice Kennedy: Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote the majority opinion, joined by Justices Ginsburg, Breyer, Sotomayor, and Kagan.
- Equality and Liberty: The Court held that the Fourteenth Amendment's guarantees of due process and equal protection under the law mean that states cannot deny same-sex couples the right to marry.
Key Legal Points:
- Fundamental Right to Marry: The decision emphasized that marriage 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.
- Equal Protection: The ruling underscored that denying same-sex couples the right to marry demeans them and violates the Equal Protection Clause.
Impact and Legacy:
- Nationwide Legalization of Same-Sex Marriage: The decision legalized same-sex marriage across the United States, invalidating state bans.
- Social and Legal Recognition: It was a significant step in the recognition of the civil rights of LGBTQ+ individuals, contributing to broader social acceptance and legal protections.
- Ongoing Debates: While celebrated by advocates of LGBTQ+ rights, the decision has also been subject to criticism and ongoing political and legal debates, reflecting the divided public opinion on this issue.
"Obergefell v. Hodges" is widely regarded as a historic decision in the movement for LGBTQ+ rights, aligning the law of the land with principles of equality and liberty.