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?
Before the ruling of
Obergefell v. Hodges
in June of 2015, a
person’s right to
marriage was an issue
handled by the states and
by the end of 2014,
only 17 had extended this
right to same sex couples.
Jim Obergefell and John Arthur,
a couple from Ohio, had been together
for 20 years and for the latter
portion of that time Arthur had
been suffering from ALS.
Knowing that his partners
death was inevitable and nearing,
Obergefell offered to marry
him before he died.
However, the state of Ohio
had not made same sex marriage
legal so they flew to Maryland
where they held the ceremony in
a medically assisted plane before
flying back to Ohio.
As Arthur’s death grew closer, the couple
realized that on his death certificate,
Obergerfell would not be labeled
as his spouse because same sex
marriages are not recognized in Ohio,
even if they are legally married
in another state.
They sued the state of Ohio for
violating their rights
to Due Process and Equal
Protection stated in the
Fourteenth Amendment and took
the case to the state district
court where the judge ruled that
Obergefell would be recognized
as Arthur’s spouse on his death
certificate. Just three months
after the ruling, Arthur died.
Even though the case was no longer in court,
the state of Ohio took the case to the Court
of Appeals of the Sixth Circuit where the ruling
was reversed and combined it with 5 other related
cases from Tennessee, Kentucky, and Michigan
into Obergefell et al v. Hodges.
The court cited Baker v. Nelson in their ruling,
a case that ruled that states are allowed to
restrict same sex marriage.
The couples immediately filed for certiorari
and while in conference in January of 2015
the Supreme Court agreed to hear 4 of the cases.
Between January and April when the oral arguments
would took place, the Supreme Court received 149
amicus curiae briefs from law professors, religious
organizations, and academic institutions.
On June 26, 2015 the final opinion of the court was that the
Fourteenth Amendment does in fact protect marriage as a fundamental
liberty that should be recognized in both opposite sex unions
and same sex unions by all states.
This was ruled in a 5/4 majority swayed by
conservative Justice Kennedy.
Chief Justice Roberts
Accused the judiciary
of expanding their
power to policy making
as marriage is an
issue that should be left entirely
to state representatives
as not doing so would
be taking away the power of
Wrote that the constitution’s purpose is to
prevent government intervention and that
it should not be used as a vessel for
Because same sex marriage is not
mentioned in the constitution,
its validity is entirely up to the state.
Marriage is a liberty of every person protected by the Fourteenth
amendment as it is crucial to the concept of individual autonomy.
Denying same sex couples the right to marry would violate their rights
to due process and would strip them of equal protection under the law
as they would not receive the legal benefits opposite sex unions have.
Because of this case, the idea that marriage
can solely be a union between people of the
opposite sex has become outdated and the
exclusion of people who do not fit this mold is longer
just an archaic ideology, but one that even the government
no longer supports.