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Supreme Court Rules Same Sex Marriage Legal Nation-Wide

The US Supreme Court has ruled same sex marriage legal nationwide.
The US Supreme Court has ruled same sex marriage legal nationwide.

Same-sex marriage, legal in Rhode Island since 2013,  has been ruled the national law of the land by the US Supreme Court Friday in a 5-4 decision.

The Court ruled this morning that the Fourteenth Amendment requires states to license marriages between two people of the same sex, and to recognize marriages between two people of the same sex when their marriage is lawfully licensed and performed out-of-State.

Justices Anthony Kennedy, Ruth Bader Ginsberg, Stephen Breyer, Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kegan supported the majority decision, written by Kennedy. Justices John Roberts, Antonin Scalia, Samuel Alito and Clarence Thomas supported the minority opinion, written by Roberts.

Following the decision, a group of six LGBT advocacy organizations (American Civil Liberties Union, Freedom to Marry, Gay & Lesbian Advocates & Defenders, Human Rights Campaign, Lambda Legal, National Center for Lesbian Rights) launched a joint website,, to provide answers to same-sex couples and their families as they navigate accessing the rights, benefits, and protections of marriage.

“Today’s ruling brings joy and relief to millions of Americans and their families,” said Mary L. Bonauto, Civil Rights Project Director for Gay & Lesbian Advocates & Defenders, who argued before the Court on behalf of couples from Michigan and Kentucky, challenging their states’ marriage bans.

“It lifts up LGBTQ people and affirms that laws cannot allow discrimination or categorical exclusions of LGBTQ people simply for who they are. No single ruling can fix the scarring prejudice and stereotypes that have plagued good people for so long, but this can go a long way in helping people discover their common humanity.”

The majority opinion noted three principles regarding their decision on marriage:

“The nature of marriage is that, through its enduring bond, two persons together can find other freedoms, such as expression, intimacy, and spirituality. This is true for all persons, whatever their sexual orientation,” Kennedy wrote.

“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,” the justice continued.

“Same-sex couples have the same right as opposite-sex couples to enjoy intimate association, a right extending beyond mere freedom from laws making same-sex intimacy a criminal offense,” Kennedy wrote.

“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,” Kennedy wrote.

“Without the recognition, stability, and predictability marriage offers, children suffer the stigma of knowing their families are somehow lesser,” … “They also suffer the significant material costs of being raised by unmarried parents, relegated to a more difficult and uncertain family life. The marriage laws at issue thus harm and humiliate the children of same-sex couples,” Kennedy wrote.

In response to the plea that the issue be allowed to play out in legislation and democratic debate:

“The dynamic of our constitutional system is that individuals need not await legislative action before asserting a fundamental right. The Nation’s courts are open to injured individuals who come to them to vindicate their own direct, personal stake in our basic charter. An individual can invoke a right to constitutional protection when he or she is harmed, even if the broader public disagrees and even if the legislature refuses to act.

The idea of the Constitution “was to withdraw certain subjects from the vicissitudes of political controversy, to place them beyond the reach of majorities and officials and to establish them as legal principles to be applied by the courts.” West Virginia Bd. of Ed. v. Barnette, 319 U. S. 624, 638 (1943). This is why “fundamental rights may not be submitted to a vote; they depend on the outcome of no elections.”

Regarding whether same-sex marriages must be recognized outside their original state:

“Leaving the current state of affairs in place would maintain and promote instability and uncertainty. For some couples, even an ordinary drive into a neighboring State to visit family or friends risks causing severe hardship in the event of a spouse’s hospitalization while across state lines.”

“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.”

In his written dissent, Chief Justice Roberts questioned the wisdom of circumventing legistlative, democratic debate on the topic.

“When decisions are reached through democratic means, some people will inevitably be disappointed with the results. But those whose views do not prevail at least know that they have had their say, and accordingly are—in the tradition of our political culture—reconciled to the result of a fair and honest debate. In addition, they can gear up to raise the issue later, hoping to persuade enough on the winning side to think again.” …”But today the Court puts a stop to all that,” …”There will be consequences to shutting down the political process on an issue of such profound public significance. Closing debate tends to close minds,” Roberts wrote.

Roberts argued that same-sex couples’ right to marry was an implied right, not enumerated, or spelled out, in the Constitution. He warned the majority’s opinion was thus not Constitutional, quoting Washington v. Glucksberg, “One can conclude that certain essential, or fundamental, rights should exist in any just society. It does not follow that each of those essential rights is one that we as judges can enforce under the written Constitution. The Due Process Clause is not a guarantee of every right that should inhere in an ideal system.”

“If you are among the many Americans—of whatever sexual orientation—who favor expanding same-sex marriage, by all means celebrate today’s decision. Celebrate the achievement of a desired goal. Celebrate the opportunity for a new expression of commitment to a partner. Celebrate the availability of new benefits. But do not celebrate the Constitution. It had nothing to do with it. I respectfully dissent,” Roberts concluded.

“It would misunderstand these men and women to say they disrespect the idea of marriage. Their plea is that they do respect it, respect it so deeply that they seek to find its fulfillment for themselves. Their hope is not to be condemned to live in loneliness, excluded from one of civilization’s oldest institutions. They ask for equal dignity in the eyes of the law. The Constitution grants them that right,” Kennedy concluded.

The full decision and Justice’s opinions are available on the US Supreme Court’s website.

Rob Borkowski
Author: Rob Borkowski

Rob has worked as reporter and editor for several publications, including The Kent County Daily Times and Coventry Courier, before working for Gatehouse in MA then moving home with Patch Media. Now he's publisher and editor of Contact him at [email protected] with tips, press releases, advertising inquiries, and concerns.

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