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Summary of Obergefell v. Hodges.

Facts
The plaintiffs in this case were fourteen same-sex couples, and two men whose
same-sex partners were deceased at the time of this ruling. James Obergefell
was one of these plaintiffs. The named defendant, Richard Hodges, is the
Director of the Ohio Department of Health.
Ohio, Michigan, Kentucky, and Tennessee defined marriage as a union between
one man and one woman and did not recognize same-sex marriages. The
plaintiffs challenged these laws under the Fourteenth Amendment to the United
States Constitution by filing lawsuits in federal district court in their home states.
The plaintiffs argued that the Fourteenth Amendment required the States to allow
same-sex marriage and to recognize the validity of such marriages performed in
other jurisdictions.
In each case, the federal district courts ruled in favor of the plaintiffs. On appeal,
the Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit consolidated the cases and reversed
the rulings. The plaintiffs appealed to the Supreme Court of the United States.
Issues
1.
2.
3.

Do same-sex couples have the right to marry in every State?


Must the States grant marriage licenses to same-sex couples?
Must the States recognize same-sex marriages that have been licensed
and performed lawfully out-of-State?
Holding and Rule of Law (Kennedy)
1.

Yes. The Fourteenth Amendment requires that same-sex couples have the
right to marry in every State.
2.
Yes. The Fourteenth Amendment requires that the States must license
marriages to same-sex couples.
3.
Yes. The Fourteenth Amendment requires that the States must recognize
same-sex marriages that have been licensed and performed lawfully out-ofState.
The Supreme Court reasoned that the history of marriage is marked by both
continuity and change. Changes such as the abandonment of the law of
coverture and the decline of arranged marriage have affected aspects of
marriage that were once seen as essential. These new insights and changes in
understanding have strengthened marriage, not weakened it.

Over the last few decades, political, legal, and cultural developments and shifts in
public attitudes have made it possible for same-sex couples to enjoy more open
and public lives. For example, in the 2003 case Lawrence v. Texas, the
Supreme Court overruled the 1986 case Bowers v. Hardwick which had upheld a
Georgia law that criminalized homosexual conduct. The Court in Lawrence v.
Texas held that laws that made same-sex intimacy a crime demeaned the lives of
gay people and were unconstitutional.
The Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment protects fundamental
liberties including personal choices central to individual dignity and autonomy.
These liberties include personal choices defining an individuals identity and
beliefs.
The Supreme Court has long held the right to marry is protected by the
Constitution. For example, in Loving v. Virginia, the Court invalidated bans on
interracial marriage. In determining whether the same legal reasoning should
apply to same-sex marriage, the Court must respect the fundamental reasons for
protecting the right to marry in other cases. The Supreme Court held that this
analysis led to the conclusion that same-sex couples must have the right to
marry.

The Supreme Court held that the right to marry is a fundamental right inherent in
the liberty of the person. Same-sex couples may not be deprived of that right and
that liberty under the Due Process and Equal Protection Clauses of the
Fourteenth Amendment. The State laws challenged by the plaintiffs in these
cases are held invalid insofar as they deny same-sex couples the rights to
marriage that are enjoyed by opposite-sex couples.
Disposition
Reversed.
Note: Obergefell v. Hodges is frequently referred to as the Supreme Court gay
marriage case.

See Roe v. Wade for a constitutional law case brief involving issues regarding
the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment in the context of the
enforceability of abortion legislation.