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Published: Saturday, Jun. 26th, 2021

Marriage Equality Turns Six -- Celebrating the Anniversary of Obergefell v. Hodges

The Supreme Court held that the right to marry was fundamental.

Six years ago today, on June 26th, 2015, the Supreme Court ruled that same-sex couples have a constitutionally protected right to marry in all 50 states. 

 

Heck yeah, they do! 

 

Obergefell v. Hodges was decided by a close 5-4 vote following decades of effort (and heartbreak and perseverance) by LGBTQ+ communities and allies. At the time, only 37 states allowed same-sex marriage. 13 states still had bans in place, and most of those wouldn’t recognize marriages that were performed legally in other states. 

 

(See a timeline of the legalization of same-sex marriage in the US)

 

On that momentous day (while the rest of us held our breaths in anticipation), the Court held that the right to marry was fundamental -- protected by the Fourteenth Amendment of the Constitution. This view had been upheld earlier, the Court stated, in Loving v. Virginia, the case that struck down bans on interracial marriages, and in Turner v.Safley, which held that incarcerated folks couldn’t be denied the right to marry. 

 

In the majority opinion, Chief Justice Kennedy wrote: 

 

“The fundamental liberties protected by the Fourteenth Amendment’s Due Process Clause extend to certain personal choices central to individual dignity and autonomy, including intimate choices defining personal identity and beliefs.” 

 

(Read the original syllabus and Opinion of the Court delivered by Justice Kennedy) 

 

Obergefell et al. included petitioners involved in several separate cases, in Michigan, Kentucky, Ohio, and Tennessee. Perhaps the most memorable of these is that of the original plaintiff, Jim Obergefell, who first sued the state of Ohio with his terminally-ill husband John Arthur. The couple believed (correctly) that Ohio would refuse to recognize their marriage on Arthur’s death certificate after his death. Arthur died only a few months after litigation began. 

 

 


Marriage equality now

 

Today, the number of married same-sex couples in the US is more than double that of 2015, with well over 600,000 marriages. Popular opinion has shifted too, with an overwhelming 70% of Americans in support of marriage equality, including 55% of Republicans and 83% of Democrats. (The rest of you need to catch up.) 

 

Each year, communities celebrate the anniversary of Obergefell with festive parades, proms, parties, drag shows, picnics, educational exhibits, and (of course!) weddings. And because the day falls during national Pride month, close to the June 28 anniversary of the Stonewall riots, it holds a special importance for many families. 

 

 

We hope to see you out there, celebrating this win for civil rights with us this weekend. We’ll bring the kazoos and ginger beer!

 

 

Image is a photograph of a group of young people celebrating Pride in colorful outfits with rainbow flags, they are laughing and happy, outdoors in the sunshine

 

 

Still, it’s important to remember that even though same-sex couples can legally marry in every state, there are still places in the country where discrimination and homophobia make this easier said than done. Many government officials continue to make it difficult for same-sex couples to obtain a marriage license, and wedding officiants still refuse to perform their ceremonies. This can be especially hard on couples that live in rural areas, where they may not have many options, and must travel long distances to find an LGBTQ+ inclusive officiant.

 

That’s why accessible, free online ordination is still SO important. By protecting the right of all adults to solemnize marriage, online ordination also protects the right of all adult couples to be married without discrimination, by someone of their choosing, who will honor and respect their love. 

 

Jim Obergefell was recently interviewed by the Advocate and discussed the current state of marriage equality. He reminisced about his relationship with Arthur, and emphasized that the fight for true marriage equality is ongoing. You can find the interview here

 


PS. Happy Pride!!

 

 


 

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