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Recounting the circumstances of three of these cases illustrates the urgency of the petitioners’ cause from their perspective.
Petitioner James Obergefell, a plaintiff in the Ohio case, met John Arthur over two decades ago.
in effect, upheld state action that denied gays and lesbians a fundamental right. The petitioners are 14 same-sex couples and two men whose same-sex partners are deceased.
Though it was eventually repudiated, men and women suffered pain and humiliation in the interim, and the effects of these injuries no doubt lingered long after was overruled. The respondents are state officials responsible for enforcing the laws in question. The first, presented by the cases from Michigan and Kentucky, is whether the Fourteenth Amendment requires a State to license a marriage between two people of the same sex.
Rights implicit in liberty and rights secured by equal protection may rest on different precepts and are not always co-extensive, yet each may be instructive as to the meaning and reach of the other. Indeed, recognizing that new insights and societal understandings can reveal unjustified inequality within fundamental institutions that once passed unnoticed and unchallenged, this Court has invoked equal protection principles to invalidate laws imposing sex-based inequality on marriage, see, , 539 U. The marriage laws at issue are in essence unequal: Same-sex couples are denied benefits afforded opposite-sex couples and are barred from exercising a fundamental right. (4) The right to marry is a fundamental right inherent in the liberty of the person, and under the Due Process and Equal Protection Clauses of the Fourteenth Amendment couples of the same-sex may not be deprived of that right and that liberty. (5) There may be an initial inclination to await further legislation, litigation, and debate, but referenda, legislative debates, and grassroots campaigns; studies and other writings; and extensive litigation in state and federal courts have led to an enhanced understanding of the issue.
Especially against a long history of disapproval of their relationships, this denial works a grave and continuing harm, serving to disrespect and subordinate gays and lesbians. Same-sex couples may exercise the fundamental right to marry. The State laws challenged by the petitioners in these cases are held invalid to the extent they exclude same-sex couples from civil marriage on the same terms and conditions as opposite-sex couples. While the Constitution contemplates that democracy is the appropriate process for change, individuals who are harmed need not await legislative action before asserting a fundamental right.
Finally, the First Amendment ensures that religions, those who adhere to religious doctrines, and others have protection as they seek to teach the principles that are so fulfilling and so central to their lives and faiths. Since same-sex couples may now exercise the fundamental right to marry in all States, 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. 14–556, 14-562, 14-571 and 14–574 _________________ JAMES OBERGEFELL, delivered the opinion of the Court. The lifelong union of a man and a woman always has promised nobility and dignity to all persons, without regard to their station in life.
See Michigan, Kentucky, Ohio, and Tennessee define marriage as a union between one man and one woman.
The petitioners, 14 same-sex couples and two men whose same-sex partners are deceased, filed suits in Federal District Courts in their home States, claiming that respondent state officials violate the Fourteenth Amendment by denying them the right to marry or to have marriages lawfully performed in another State given full recognition. (1) The history of marriage as a union between two persons of the opposite sex marks the beginning of these cases.
A ruling against same-sex couples would have the same effect and would be unjustified under the Fourteenth Amendment. TOP Opinion NOTICE: This opinion is subject to formal revision before publication in the preliminary print of the United States Reports. The petitioners claim the respondents violate the Fourteenth Amendment by denying them the right to marry or to have their marriages, lawfully performed in another State, given full recognition. The second, presented by the cases from Ohio, Tennessee, and, again, Kentucky, is whether the Fourteenth Amendment requires a State to recognize a same-sex marriage licensed and performed in a State which does grant that right.
The petitioners’ stories show the urgency of the issue they present to the Court, which has a duty to address these claims and answer these questions. Readers are requested to notify the Reporter of Decisions, Supreme Court of the United States, Washington, D. 20543, of any typographical or other formal errors, in order that corrections may be made before the preliminary print goes to press. Petitioners filed these suits in United States District Courts in their home States. Citations to those cases are in Appendix A, , 772 F. The Court of Appeals held that a State has no constitutional obligation to license same-sex marriages or to recognize same-sex marriages performed out of State. This Court granted review, limited to two questions. II Before addressing the principles and precedents that govern these cases, it is appropriate to note the history of the subject now before the Court.