An extremely important Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) ruling occurred on June 26, 2015, changing the scope of same-sex marriage in America forever. In the final ruling regarding the case Obergefell v. Hodges, SCOTUS stated that all of the 50 states, as well as the District of Columbia, must recognize marriages and issue marriage licenses, even if the spouses are the same sex. Effectively, this decision provided same-sex couples equal protection regarding marriage, rights to property, and all other legal issues that are related to marriage.
Fourteenth Amendment Rights Violated
Prior to this ruling, Ohio, Kentucky, Michigan, and Tennessee defined marriage as a “union between one man and one woman.” Fourteen same-sex couples and two men whose same-sex partners had passed away claimed that their state officials violated their Fourteenth Amendment rights by denying them the right to marry their partners or refusing to give their marriages full recognition after they were lawfully performed in another state. They consequently filed lawsuits in Federal District Courts in the states that they resided in. All of the individual District Courts initially ruled in the favor of the petitioners, but the Sixth Circuit elected to consolidate all of the cases and then reversed the decisions of the District Courts.
What the Courts Needed to Determine
Regarding same-sex marriage, the courts had to decide whether the Fourteenth Amendment required a State to license a marriage union between two people of the same sex, as well as to recognize a marriage of two people of the same sex if they were lawfully married in another State. If the Fourteenth Amendment did indeed require these things, the states named in the lawsuits did violate the petitioners’ constitutional rights.
What the Fourteenth Amendment Says
The Fourteenth Amendment, which was initially introduced to extend equal civil and legal rights to black citizens, addresses a variety of rights and aspects of citizenship. The most commonly litigated part of the Fourteenth Amendment pertains to the “equal protection of laws,” which covers a wide variety of topics,including racial discrimination, reproductive rights, election recounts, gender discrimination, and racial quotas in education.
The arguments set forth by the petitioners were fairly strong and embedded in social policy and specific considerations of fairness. They argue that same-sex couples should be able to affirm their commitment to each other and love for each other through legal marriage, just like couples of the opposite sex. They base their arguments on a constitutional “right to marry” and “marriage of equality.” But, who actually makes the decision that constitutes what a “marriage” is? Historically, spanning back millennia and across the civilizations, marriage was known universally as the union between a man and a woman.
Honoring Society as a Whole
Ultimately, though, when any U.S. court is making a decision that is based on a constitutional right, it has to take society, as a whole, into consideration. The court should make sure that society has been honored as the constitution would want it to be. In the end, that is what the Supreme Court of the United States did when it decided, with a vote of 5-4, that the fundamental right to marry belonged to same-sex couples just as much as it belonged to “man and woman.”
Whether you are dealing with marriage or divorce issue, child custody, support, or any other family law issue in Texas, you are going to want to consult with an experienced Texas family law attorney. We care about what matters to you. Contact us today to discuss your needs and how we can help you obtain the best outcome for you and your family.