Obergefell v. Hodges

PETITIONER: James Obergefell, et al.
RESPONDENT: Richard Hodges, Director of the Ohio Department of Health, et al.
LOCATION: United States District Court for the Southern District of Ohio, Western Division

DOCKET NO.: 14-556
DECIDED BY: Roberts Court (2010-2016)
LOWER COURT: United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit

CITATION: 576 US (2015)
GRANTED: Jan 16, 2015
ARGUED: Apr 28, 2015
DECIDED: Jun 26, 2015

ADVOCATES:
Douglas Hallward-Driemeier - for the petitioners on Question 2
Donald B. Verrilli, Jr. - for the petitioners on Question 1
John J. Bursch - for the respondents on Question 1
Mary L. Bonauto - for the petitioners on Question 1
Joseph F. Whalen - for the respondents on Question 2

Facts of the case

Groups of same-sex couples sued their relevant state agencies in Ohio, Michigan, Kentucky, and Tennessee to challenge the constitutionality of those states' bans on same-sex marriage or refusal to recognize legal same-sex marriages that occurred in jurisdictions that provided for such marriages. The plaintiffs in each case argued that the states' statutes violated the Equal Protection Clause and Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment, and one group of plaintiffs also brought claims under the Civil Rights Act. In all the cases, the trial court found in favor of the plaintiffs. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit reversed and held that the states' bans on same-sex marriage and refusal to recognize marriages performed in other states did not violate the couples' Fourteenth Amendment rights to equal protection and due process.

Question

(1) Does the Fourteenth Amendment require a state to license a marriage between two people of the same sex?

(2) Does the Fourteenth Amendment require a state to recognize a marriage between two people of the same sex that was legally licensed and performed in another state?

Media for Obergefell v. Hodges

Audio Transcription for Opinion Announcement - June 26, 2015 (Part 2) in Obergefell v. Hodges
Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - April 28, 2015 (Part 1) in Obergefell v. Hodges
Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - April 28, 2015 (Part 2) in Obergefell v. Hodges

Audio Transcription for Opinion Announcement - June 26, 2015 (Part 1) in Obergefell v. Hodges

John G. Roberts, Jr.:

Justice Kennedy has our opinion this morning in Case 14-556, Obergefell v. Hodges, and the consolidated cases.

Anthony M. Kennedy:

These cases come to us from Michigan, Kentucky, Ohio, and Tennessee; those states define marriage as a union between one man and one woman.

Petitioners are 14 same-sex couples and two men whose same-sex partners are deceased.

Respondents are state officials.

Petitioners claim that in these states respondents violate the Fourteenth Amendment, in some cases by denying them the right to marriage, and in some cases by refusing to recognize their marriages which were licensed in other states.

Petitioners filed these suits in the United States District Courts in their home states.

Each District Court ruled in their favor.

Respondents appealed to the Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit.

It consolidated the cases and reversed.

This Court granted review, limited to two questions.

First, whether the Fourteenth Amendment requires states to license same-sex marriages; and second, whether that amendment requires states to recognize same-sex marriages that were licensed in states which do grant that right?

Since the dawn of history, marriage has transformed strangers into relatives; this binds families and societies together, and it must be acknowledged that the opposite sex character of marriage, one man, one woman has long been viewed as essential to its very nature and purpose.

And the Court's analysis and the opinion today begins with these millennia of human experience, but it does not end there.

For the history of marriage is one of both continuity and change.

As new dimensions of freedom have become apparent to new generations, the institution of marriage has been strengthened by evolution over time.

Until recent decades few persons had even thought about or considered the concept of same-sex marriage.

In part, that is because homosexuality was condemned and criminalized by many states through the mid-20th Century.

It was deemed an illness by most experts.

Of necessity, truthful declaration by same-sex couples of what was in their hearts had to remain unspoken.

Over the past half-century however substantial cultural and political developments and following those same-sex couples began to lead more open lives and to establish families.

This led to an extensive societal discussion and a shift toward greater tolerance of same-sex relationships.

Against that background the legal question of same-sex marriage arose.

The Courts have written a body of law considering all sides of the issue and after years of litigation, legislation, referenda, and public debates, the states are now divided on the question of same-sex marriage.

The Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment long has been interpreted to protect certain fundamental rights central to individual dignity and autonomy.

The identification of these rights is guided by history and tradition, but the past alone does not rule the present.

For the nature of injustices, we do not always see it in our own times.

This Court has held the right to marry as fundamental.

Of course in doing so it resumed an opposite sex union, one man, one woman.

But the Court has expressed constitutional principles of broader reach and in assessing whether the force and rationale of its cases apply to same-sex couples, the Court must respect the basic reasons why the right to marry has been protected.

The first premise of the Court's cases is that the right to personal choice regarding marriage is inherent in the concept of individual autonomy.