What did the Supreme Court actually say about gay marriage?

June 26, 2015

The Supreme Court ruled on Friday that the U.S. Constitution provides same-sex couples the same right to marry as heterosexual couples. With the landmark ruling, gay marriage will be legal in all 50 states.

Five justices supported the ruling, while four dissented. Below are excerpts from the court’s majority and dissenting opinions.

Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote for the majority:

On gays who want to get married

“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.”

On the advantages of marriage

“… 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… Same-sex couples, too, may aspire to the transcendent purposes of marriage and seek fulfillment in its highest meaning.”

“They must remain strangers even in death”

“Two years ago, Obergefell and Arthur decided to commit to one another, resolving to marry before Arthur died. To fulfill their mutual promise, they traveled from Ohio to Maryland, where same-sex marriage was legal. It was difficult for Arthur to move, and so the couple were wed inside a medical transport plane as it remained on the tarmac in Baltimore. Three months later, Arthur died. Ohio law does not permit Obergefell to be listed as the surviving spouse on Arthur’s death certificate. By statute, they must remain strangers even in death…”

Chief Justice John Roberts wrote a blistering dissent:

On the purpose of marriage

“Marriage did not come about as a result of a political movement, discovery, disease, war, religious doctrine, or any other moving force of world history — and certainly not as a result of a prehistoric decision to exclude gays and lesbians. It arose in the nature of things to meet a vital need: ensuring that children are conceived by a mother and father committed to raising them in the stable conditions of a lifelong relationship.”

What about polyamorous relationships?

“If a same-sex couple has the constitutional right to marry because their children would otherwise ‘suffer the stigma of knowing their families are somehow lesser,’ ante, at 15, why wouldn’t the same reasoning apply to a family of three or more persons raising children? If not having the opportunity to marry ‘serves to disrespect and subordinate’ gay and lesbian couples, why wouldn’t the same ‘imposition of this disability,’ ante, at 22, serve to disrespect and subordinate people who find fulfillment in polyamorous relationships?”

Unconstitutional decision

“If you are among the many Americans—of whatever sexual orientation—who favor expanding same-sex marriage, by all means celebrate today’s decision. Celebrate the achievement of a desired goal. Celebrate the opportunity for a new expression of commitment to a partner. Celebrate the availability of new benefits. But do not celebrate the Constitution. It had nothing to do with it.”

One comment

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These are the opinions of the judges. What was the basis in federal law for their opinion? I was under the opinion that there was no federal law governing marriage and this was a decision left to the states. If the law of the states can only be overruled when there is a compelling federal law that governs. The compelling federal law is NOT the OPINION of one, two or even five judges. So has the supreme court now replaced congress as the purveyor of law?

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