The Before and Aftermath of the Supreme Court’s 2015 Same Sex Marriage Decision.
On June 26, 2015, the Supreme Court of the United States decided the matter of Obergefell v. Hodges. The petitioner, James Obergefell, sued the Director of the Ohio Department of Health after he was denied the right to be listed on his partner’s death certificate as the surviving spouse. This matter was combined, by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit, with several other lawsuits by same-sex partners against the respective authorities in Michigan, Kentucky, and Tennessee. Their argument was that the officials in these states violated the 14th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution by denying them the right to marry or to have marriages lawfully performed in another state given full recognition.
Published Notable case of mine achieved First Order of Parentage for a nonbiological, nonadoptive parent. AF vs KH.
Gay & Lesbian Marriage and Divorce
The Supreme Court held, in a 5-4 decision by Justice Anthony Kennedy, that the 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution required 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 performed and licensed in another state. The Court also held that, under the 14th Amendment, there was 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.
The Supreme Court based its decision on America’s history and experience with the institution of marriage, in addition to the Court’s own jurisprudence as it pertained to marriage and intimate relationships. The Supreme Court also based its decision on the principle that marriage is a fundamental, individual right protected by the 14th Amendment’s Equal Protection clause, and that the Court’s action, rather than legislative processes, was urgently needed to prevent further pain and humiliation of the affected couples.
The implications of this ruling are far-reaching. The Obergefell decision now makes it possible for a same-sex couple to be married in any state in America, and to be recognized as a married couple should they move to another state in this country. This decision erases some uncertainty about the rights of a same-sex married couple that remained in the wake of the June 26th, 2013 Supreme Court case, United States v. Windsor. The Windsor case struck down Section 3 of the Defense Of Marriage Act (DOMA) and held that same sex couples are eligible for federal benefits – without reaching the question of whether same-sex couples had a constitutional right to marry nationwide. The Windsor decision was significant in providing rights and privileges for same-sex married couples, in areas such as real estate, tax, estates, health, immigration, social security and retirement benefits.
Transgender individuals, children, and parents face enormous hurdles and continue to be victims of discrimination and bullying. A transgender male was refused a divorce in Arizona. For transgender youth, parental consent and many times court approval is needed before medical treatment can begin or continue for transitioning gender. Legal protections for the transgender population are essential. Some States, including New York, have legislation pending to prohibit conversion therapy (attempts to force heterosexuality upon gay and lesbian minors). Finally, a greater sensitivity and emphasis is needed to enforce and provide laws against domestic violence in LGBTQ relationships.