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Obergefell v. Hodges

Justia Summary

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. The district courts ruled in their favor. The Sixth Circuit consolidated the cases and reversed. The Supreme Court reversed. The Fourteenth Amendment requires a state to license a marriage between two people of the same sex and to recognize a marriage between two people of the same sex when their marriage was lawfully licensed and performed out-of-state. The Court noted other changes in the institution of marriage: the decline of arranged marriages, invalidation of bans on interracial marriage and use of contraception, and abandonment of the law of coverture. The fundamental liberties protected by the Fourteenth Amendment extend to certain personal choices central to individual dignity and autonomy, including intimate choices defining personal identity and beliefs. Marriage is a centerpiece of social order and fundamental under the Constitution; it draws meaning from related rights of childrearing, procreation, and education. The marriage laws at issue harm and humiliate the children of same-sex couples; burden the liberty of same-sex couples; and abridge central precepts of equality. There may be an initial inclination to await further legislation, litigation, and debate, but referenda, legislative debates, and grassroots campaigns; studies and other writings; and extensive litigation have led to an enhanced understanding of the issue. While the Constitution contemplates that democracy is the appropriate process for change, individuals who are harmed need not await legislative action before asserting a fundamental right. The First Amendment ensures that religions, those who adhere to religious doctrines, and others have protection as they seek to teach the principles that are central to their lives and faiths.

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