Obergefell v. Hodges case involves fourteen same-sex couples and two same-sex individuals whose partners were deceased. These individuals filed a lawsuit for four different states, Tennessee, Kentucky, Ohio, and Michigan. These appealing individuals wanted to validate the definition of marriage. Specifically, the abovementioned four states define marriage as a union between men and women (Obergefell v. Hodges, 2015). Meanwhile, same-sex marriages were arranged and validated in the different states that legalize same-sex marriages. Hence, whether those marriages should be recognized by the states of Tennessee, Kentucky, Ohio, and Michigan when these individuals came to live in these states was a purpose of the lawsuit.
The main issue under consideration is were these laws that defined marriage as a union between man and woman are constitutionally valid or not.
The Court has decided in favor of the appealing side. The majority held that the fourteenth amendment requires a State to license a marriage between two people of the same sex and recognize a marriage between two people of the same marriage when their marriage was lawfully permitted and performed out of State (Obergefell v. Hodges, 2015). The brief will explain the justification for the decision in the following section.
The first part of the justification for the decision narrated the evolution of the institution of marriage. Namely, starting with the historical basis of marriages and homosexuality, this part proved that the Supreme Court had been actively involved in the state’s decisions about these matters (Obergefell v. Hodges, 2015). This part is significant since one of the dissenting justices emphasized that the state legislatures than Supreme Court should define marriage.
The second, more critical part of the justification emphasized that these laws infringed an individual’s fundamental right to marry under the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. It set out four sets of principles that make these rights fundamental. First, the restrictive law violated the individual’s personal choice (Obergefell v. Hodges, 2015). Constitution emphasizes that individuals have a right to autonomy, to determine their own decisions. Marriage, including whom to marry and like, is part of an individual’s personal choice.
Secondly, marriage is a fundamental commitment that two people can make regardless of whether they are heterosexual or homosexual (Obergefell v. Hodges, 2015). Thirdly, marriage safeguards children and is a basis for a family. The right to marry entails a right to appropriation, and child-rearing also stems from the marital unit (Obergefell v. Hodges, 2015). As such, marriage is a fundamental right because of its intrinsic nature, and it is a prerequisite for all other sources of happiness. Lastly, marriage is a fundamental right because it is essential for the social order (Obergefell v. Hodges, 2015). Thus, considering these principles that prove that marriage is a fundamental human right, there is no reason to differentiate between same-sex and heterosexual marriages.
The third part of the justification emphasized that individuals are being denied their fundamental rights under the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. Namely, the laws that restrain same-sex marriages “burden the liberty of same-sex couples and abridge central precepts of equality” (Obergefell v. Hodges, 2015, p. 4). In other words, by disallowing marriage to same-sex individuals, this law subjugates and subordinates these individuals (Obergefell v. Hodges, 2015). Hence, the right to marry is an inherent fundamental right of the person both under the Due Process and Equal Protection Clauses of the Fourteenth Amendment.
Dissenting justices were Roberts, C. J., Scalia, J., Thomas, J., and Alito, J. Their primary point of dissent investigated not the question of whether same-sex marriages should be allowed or not. Instead, they debated two significant questions. The first question was whether same-sex marriage is a fundamental right, and the second question was whether the state court or Supreme Court should decide the definition of marriage (Obergefell v. Hodges, 2015). Justice Roberts said that the fundamental right to marry is not the same as the absolute right to “make a State change its definition of marriage” (Obergefell v. Hodges, 2015, p. 2). Hence, Justice Roberts challenged the majority’s argument that same-sex marriage is a fundamental right.
Meanwhile, Justice Scalia stipulated that the second question is more important than the first one. He argued that this practice might set a precedent to further revision of the constitution “by an unelected committee of nine,” hence, depriving the American people of the freedom to govern themselves (Obergefell v. Hodges, 2015, p. 2). Similarly, Justice Thomas argued that this decision had reflected the majority’s personal views instead of the constitutional text (Obergefell v. Hodges, 2015). He also challenges the liberty principle’s application to the case and argues that petitioners have not been deprived of it (Obergefell v. Hodges, 2015). Finally, Justice Alito expressed his concerns that such a decision resulted from five unelected Justices imposing their “personal vision of liberty upon the American people” (Obergefell v. Hodges, 2015, p. 2). Thus, dissenting opinions mainly challenged the applicability of the fundamental right and liberty principle to the case of same-sex marriages and the threat of constitutional revision and expansion of laws.
The Court made a correct decision because the law infringed on same-sex individuals’ fundamental rights and liberty. Same-sex individuals, like any other human being, are free to pursue their happiness. In this case, the law restricted them from pursuing their joy because it did not allow them to marry the person they wanted to marry and build a family with them, which are the sources of happiness for any individual.
Obergefell v. Hodges (Supreme Court of the United States, 2015).