On June 26, 2015, the U. S. Supreme Court (SCOTUS) addressed the patchwork of varying states’ laws about same-sex marriage, legalizing same-sex marriage nationwide by a 5-4 vote. As expected, Justice Anthony Kennedy was the “swing” vote, siding with the 4 liberal justices: Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Elena Kagan, Stephen Breyer and Sonia Sotomayor.
America’s laws on same-sex marriage were a patchwork prior to the SCOTUS ruling: 37 states and the District of Columbia recognized same-sex marriage equality; 13 states banned same-sex marriage.
The SCOTUS decision reflects record-high levels of public support for same-sex marriage equality and is based on the 14th Amendment’s guarantees of equal protection and due process. As Justice Kennedy wrote in the majority opinion: the right to marry is an inherent aspect of individual autonomy, as “decisions about marriage are among the most intimate that an individual can make”; and gay Americans have the right to “intimate association” above and beyond mere freedom from laws banning homosexuality.
The SCOTUS decision was lauded by: the LGBT community (of course); President Obama, who became the first President to support same-sex marriage equality in 2012; and a significant portion of the heterosexual American public.
Meanwhile, all 4 of the conservative members of SCOTUS who voted against nationwide legalization of same-sex marriage wrote stinging dissents. Justice Antonin Scalia’s was perhaps the most biting, stating that “The Supreme Court of the United States has descended from the disciplined legal reasoning of John Marshall and Joseph Story to the mystical aphorisms of the fortune cookie.” In addition, the Republican Party and its 2016 Presidential candidates oppose same-sex marriage: some suggest a Constitutional Amendment allowing individual states to ban same-sex marriage; some are encouraging civil disobedience by states’ public servants in order to thwart same-sex marriage by simply refusing to follow federal law; and some state/county workers are quitting their jobs rather than issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples.
Despite the legal and social wrangling over nationwide legalization of same-sex marriage, the SCOTUS decision assures marriage equality for the LGBT community for the foreseeable future.
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