Today the Supreme Court of the United States ruled in favor of marriage equality.
In making its decision, the Court used a four prong analysis in deciding this matter.
1. The first premise is that the right of personal choice regarding marriage is inherent in the concept of individual autonomy. The Court stated that “there is dignity in the bond between two men or two women who seek to marry and in their autonomy to make such profound choices.”
2. The second principle or premise is that the Court’s jurisprudence is that the right to marry is fundamental because it supports a two person union unlike any other in its importance to committed individuals.
3. The third basis for protecting the right to marry is that “it safeguards children and families and thus draws meaning from related rights of childrearing, procreation, and education.” The Court noted that “the right to marry, establish a home and bring up children is a central part of the liberty protected by the Due Process Clause. By giving recognition and legal structure to their parents’ relationship, marriage allows children to understand the integrity and closeness of their own family and its concord with other families in their community and in their daily lives. Excluding same-sex couples from marriage thus conflicts with a central premise of the right to marry. Without the recognition, stability, and predictability marriage offers, their children suffer the stigma of knowing their families are somehow lesser.”
4. The fourth and final premise according to the Court is that the cases and Nation’s traditions make clear that marriage is a keystone of our social order. “The limitation of marriage to opposite-sex couples may long have seemed natural and just, but its inconsistency with the central meaning of the fundamental right to marry is now manifest. With that knowledge must come the recognition that laws excluding same-sex couples from the marriage right to impose stigma and injury of the kind prohibited by our basic charter.”
The Court noted that “many who deem same-sex marriage to be wrong reach that conclusion based upon decent and honorable religious or philosophical premises, and neither they nor their beliefs are disparaged here. But when that sincere, personal opposition becomes enacted law and public policy, the necessary consequence is to put the imprimatur of the State itself on an exclusion that soon demeans or stigmatizes those whose own liberty is then denied.”
The Court discussed the proper forum or process for creating change or new law. “Of course, the Constitution contemplates that democracy is the appropriate process for change, so long as that process does not abridge fundamental rights. Thus, when the rights of persons are violated, the Constitution requires redress by the courts, notwithstanding the more general value of democratic decision making.”
This ruling means that same-sex couples may 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.
With this ruling, same-sex partners may avail themselves all rights available and provided to heterosexual married couples. This includes but is not limited to health care benefits, adoption, tax deductions, the right to visit in a hospital and even to divorce.
On a personal note, the lead attorney of the Michigan case, Dana Nessel, whose arguments helped to shape this landmark Supreme Court decision is a long time friend and colleague. To Dana: I am proud of you and I hope your upcoming nuptials with your significant other, brings you all the joy you deserve and have so clearly earned.