Decided - The FindLaw Noteworthy Decisions and Settlements Blog

SCOTUS: Same-Sex Marriage Bans Are Unconstitutional

If you haven't heard about the Supreme Court's ruling regarding same-sex marriage in the case of Obergefell v. Hodges, you've probably been living under a rock or have never used Facebook before.

FYI: The Supreme Court ruled that marriage is a fundamental right and same-sex couples must be allowed to marry. While you may have heard all about the decision by now, here is a more in-depth look into the case, the ruling, and the dissents.

The Case

Obergefell v. Hodges is actually a combination of several cases challenging same-sex marriage bans from Ohio, Michigan, Kentucky, and Tennessee. In the named case, Jim Obergefell and his dying partner were from Ohio. They married in Maryland, but Ohio refused to recognize their marriage due to the state's same-sex marriage ban.

The two questions presented to the Court were: 

  1. Does the Fourteenth Amendment require states to license marriages between two people of the same sex? 
  2. Does the Fourteenth amendment require a state to recognize a same-sex marriage performed in another state?

The Ruling

The Court ruled in a 5-4 decision that, yes, the Fourteenth Amendment does require all states to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples and recognize out-of state same-sex marriages.

Writing for the majority, Justice Kennedy argued that marriage is a fundamental liberty promised by the Constitution. Denying such a right to same-sex couples while protecting that right for opposite sex couples denies same-sex couples equal protection. Justice Kennedy wrote, "The right to marry is a fundamental right inherent in the liberty of the person and under the Due Process and Equal Protection Clause 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."

The Dissents

In his dissent, Chief Justice Roberts does not dispute the right or benefits of same-sex couples to marry. However, he strongly believes that it is the job of the legislature, not the Court, to address those issues. He wrote, "Whether same-sex marriage is a good idea should be of no concern to us. ... The majority's decision is an act of will, not legal judgment."

He argues that the Constitution itself does not explicitly promise any right to marry for anyone. So, Roberts disagrees with the Court granting the fundamental right to marry to same-sex couples while taking away the states' rights to define marriage.

While same-sex couples are now able to legally marry, advocates warn that the fight for legal equality for the LGBT community is not yet over.

Related Resources: