The vote was 5-4. From Justice Kennedy’s majority opinion:
The States have contributed to the fundamental character of the marriage right by placing that institution at the center of so many facets of the legal and social order.
There is no difference between same- and opposite-sex couples with respect to this principle. Yet by virtue of their exclusion from that institution, same-sex couples are denied the constellation of benefits that the States have linked to marriage. This harm results in more than just material burdens. Same-sex couples are consigned to an instability many opposite-sex couples would deem intolerable in their own lives. As the State itself makes marriage all the more precious by the significance it attaches to it, exclusion from that status has the effect of teaching that gays and lesbians are unequal in important respects. It demeans gays and lesbians for the State to lock them out of a central institution of the Nation’s society. Same-sex couples, too, may aspire to the transcendent purposes of marriage and seek fulfillment in its highest meaning. …
No union is more profound than marriage, for it embodies the highest ideals of love, fidelity, devotion, sacrifice, and family. In forming a marital union, two people become something greater than once they were. As some of the petitioners in these cases demonstrate, marriage embodies a love that may endure even past death. It would misunderstand these men and women to say they disrespect the idea of marriage. Their plea is that they do respect it, respect it so deeply that they seek to find its fulfillment for themselves. Their hope is not to be condemned to live in loneliness, excluded from one of civilization’s oldest institutions. They ask for equal dignity in the eyes of the law. The Constitution grants them that right.
The judgment of the Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit is reversed.
It is so ordered.
The Goodridge decision establishing marriage equality in Massachusetts was decided in 2003. It’s been astonishing how much this issue has changed in twelve years. From a post I wrote in 2004:
The Supreme Court has turned down a chance to overturn the Massachusetts SSM decision – yay! As far as I’m concerned, the longer we keep this issue from being decided in Federal courts, the better. If SSM is decided in the Supreme Court anytime in the next several years, the best we can hope for is to lose. If we actually won in the Supreme Court, there’d be a nationwide Constitutional amendment banning gay marriage so fast we wouldn’t even have time to inquire about job prospects in Canada.
* Scalia’s dissent, as you’d expect, is full of sarcasm and bitterness. Thomas’ dissent is awful, too. The “lead dissent,” by Roberts, is less snarky, but babbles on and on about how for the Court to recognize claims of bigotry from lgb people is the same thing as calling ordinary ‘Mericans bigots.
1. The decision looks a lot like Windsor in that it is based not on heightened scrutiny per se, but on the Constitution’s airtight respect for the dignity of all persons, gays included.
2. The holding is based on the Fourteenth Amendment, the clause that guarantees that the states treat all citizens equally and with due process of law, but it does not choose due process over equal protection. It chooses both, and links them together, as Justice Kennedy’s Windsor‘s decision tried to do, as well.
3. It’s not the sex discrimination inherent in gay marriage bans that sealed their fate. Rather, it was the Constitution’s guarantee of equal dignity to all persons.
* Jay Kaplan of the ACLU on the work still to be done. Kaplan is talking about Michigan, but could be talking about the entire country in much of the article:
And then there’s RFRA — short for the Religious Freedom Restoration Act — and all of its assorted iterations. RFRA-style bills are quickly gaining popularity around the country as the go-to tactic for anti-gay forces seeking to continue to discriminate even after the SCOTUS ruling.
Here in Michigan, for instance, the discriminatory adoption bill that Gov. Rick Snyder signed into law earlier this month is part of a series of proposed legislation targeting the LGBT community, as a backlash response to anticipated marriage equality.[…]
Aside from the legislation we are trying to defeat, there remains a long list of proactive things to do — most important, amending our state civil rights laws to include sexual orientation and gender identity as protected categories against discrimination. In most places in Michigan it is still legal to be fired and denied housing and public accommodations for being LGBT. While LGBT people may be able to get married over the weekend should the Supreme Court issue a favorable decision, they still could be fired when they return to work Monday morning.
* Here Is The Single Most Important Word In Today’s Historic Marriage Equality Opinion | ThinkProgress It’s “immutable.” “Though the Court’s cases have, at times, been murky on this point, they often refer to immutably as one of several factors that, when combined, can trigger heightened scrutiny.”