Plaintiff / Appellant / Petitioner:
Defendant / Appellee / Respondent:
Venue: Supreme Court of the United States
Opinion of the Court: Obergefell-Hodges (2015)
Issue(s) Before the Court:
Plaintiff / Appellant / Petitioner's Claim(s):
Defendant / Appellee / Respondent's Claim(s):
Holding(s) and Disposition:
Held: Under the Fourteenth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, all states must license a marriage between two people of the same sex and recognize such a marriage if it was lawfully licensed and performed in another state.
- In Ohio, John Arthur was suffering from the latter stages of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), a terminal illness. Recognizing the need to make critical end-of-life decisions, Arthur sought to have the Ohio Registrar identify his partner, James Obergefell, as his surviving spouse on his death certificate so that Obergefell could receive the benefits due to a spouse.
- Arthur and Obergefell had married in Maryland two years earlier.
- Also in Ohio, four same-sex couples brought a claim seeking the right to list both parents on the birth certificates of their children.
- In Tennessee, four same-sex couples sued to force the state to recognize their marriages, which had been performed in California and New York.
- In Michigan, April DeBoer and Jayne Rowse brought a claim on behalf of themselves and three children whom they sought to jointly adopt.
- In Kentucky, Gregory Bourke and Michael DeLeon brought a claim on behalf of themselves and DeLeon's two adopted children.
- Three other couples, one with four children, joined their claim.
- Michigan, Kentucky, Ohio, and Tennessee define marriage as a union between one man and one woman.
- Plaintiffs challenged the laws as violating the Fourteenth Amendment.
- A full recounting of the facts is available below
- The couples prevailed in the federal district courts of all four [Michigan, Kentucky, Ohio, and Tennessee] states.
- All four of these cases were appealed to the Sixth Circuit, which reversed the trial court decisions in each of them and reinstated the state bans on same-sex marriage.
- The Supreme Court then consolidated the cases for review. The Supreme Court then consolidated the cases for review.
Kennedy Majority Opinion (Ginsberg, Breyer, Sotomayor, Kagan)
- A full description of the rationale is available below
Roberts Dissent (Scalia, Thomas)
- Petitioners make strong arguments rooted in social policy and considerations of fairness.
- But this Court is not a legislature.
- The fundamental right to marry does not include a right to make a State change its definition of marriage. [fundamental right that varies from state to state]
- In short, our Constitution does not enact any one theory of marriage. [then concur in requiring each state to recognize actions of other states]
- [Part I -- History ]
- The real question in these cases is what constitutes “marriage,” or—more precisely—who decides what constitutes “marriage”?
- [Part I A -- Definition of Marriage ]
- It [marriage] arose in the nature of things to meet a vital need: ensuring that children are conceived by a mother and father committed to raising them in the stable conditions of a lifelong relationship. [no marriage for the sterile, the prepubescent or post-menopausal]
- [Part I B -- Recent Changes in Definition ]
- [Part II A -- Role of the Supreme Court ]
- They argue instead that the laws violate a right implied by the Fourteenth Amendment’s requirement that “liberty” may not be deprived without “due process of law.”
- Allowing unelected federal judges to select which unenumerated rights rank as “fundamental”—and to strike down state laws on the basis of that determination—raises obvious concerns about the judicial role. [judges should or should not identify implied fundamental rights]
- Our precedents have accordingly insisted that judges “exercise the utmost care” in identifying implied fundamental rights, .... [judges repeatedly do identify implied fundamental rights]
- The need for restraint in administering the strong medicine of substantive due process is a lesson this Court has learned the hard way. Dred Scott v. Sandford, Lochner v. New York, etc.
- By empowering judges to elevate their own policy judgments to the status of constitutionally protected “liberty,” the Lochner line of cases left “no alternative to regarding the court as a . . . legislative chamber.” L. Hand, The Bill of Rights 42 (1958).
- Our precedents have required that implied fundamental rights be “objectively, deeply rooted in this Nation’s history and tradition,” and “implicit in the concept of ordered liberty, such that neither liberty nor justice would exist if they were sacrificed.” Glucksberg, 521 U. S., at 720–721 [incorporation, inter-racial marriage, etc.]
- [Part II B -- ]
Scalia Dissent (Thomas)
Thomas Dissent (Scalia)
Alito Dissent (Scalia, Thomas)
Full Recounting of Facts
- [Part I -- Facts]
- [Part II A -- History]
- [Part II B -- Legal History]
- [Part III -- Legal Analysis]
- The four principles and traditions to be discussed demonstrate that the reasons marriage is fundamental under the Constitution apply with equal force to same-sex couples.
- A first premise of the Court's relevant precedents is that the right to personal choice regarding marriage is inherent in the concept of individual autonomy.
- A second principle in this Court's jurisprudence is that the right to marry is fundamental because it supports a two-person union unlike any other in its importance to the committed individuals.
- A third basis for protecting the right to marry is that it safeguards children and families and thus draws meaning from related rights of childrearing, procreation, and education.
- Fourth and finally, this Court's cases and the Nation's traditions make clear that marriage is a keystone of our social order.
- [Part IV -- Ripeness for Decision]
- [Part V -- Conclusion]
- These cases also present the question whether the Constitution requires States to recognize same-sex marriages validly performed out of State.
- Leaving the current state of affairs in place would maintain and promote instability and uncertainty.
- The Court, in this decision, holds same-sex couples may exercise the fundamental right to marry in all States.
- It follows that the Court also must hold and it now does hold that there is no lawful basis for a State to refuse to recognize a lawful same-sex marriage performed in another State on the ground of its same-sex character.
- They ask for equal dignity in the eyes of the law.
- The Constitution grants them that right.
- A list of the material facts is available above
Majority Full Argument
- The core of the rationale is available above