By Anne Longfellow
On Friday, June 26, 2015, the U.S. Supreme Court issued its opinion on the much anticipated marriage equality case Obergefell v. Hodges, 576 U.S. ___. The decision was 5-4 with Justice Kennedy writing for the majority joined by Justices Ginsburg, Breyer, Sotomayor, and Kagen. The Court was tasked with answering two questions: (1) does the 14th amendment bar states from denying marriage licenses to same-sex couples, and (2) does the 14th amendment require states that ban same-sex marriage to recognize same-sex marriages that were lawfully performed in other states? The majority answered an ardent “yes” to both, though by requiring all states to license same-sex marriage the second question is largely moot. The majority deemed marriage to be a fundamental right protected by the due process clause and the equal protection clause. With this ruling, the Court has overturned laws in 13 states to create nationwide recognition of same-sex marriage, joining 20 other countries with nation-wide marriage equality.
Each dissenting justice wrote their own opinion, with some joining among them. The common theme of the dissenting opinions was a criticism of the majority for overstepping the bounds of the court. The dissenting justices expressed concern that the court was taking on a legislative role by forcing states to adopt a different definition of marriage. Though ideologically divisive, this opinion is already being declared a part of history and a landmark decision. President Obama made a statement of support on Friday after the opinion was released saying it was “a victory for America.” Additionally, as soon as the decision came out, same-sex couples were heading to local courthouses to get married in states that would have turned them away the day before. The full opinion along with the four dissenting opinions can be found at www.supremecourt.gov.