This morning, after months of deliberation, the Supreme Court voted 5-4 to legalize same-sex marriage across the country. Citing equal protection under the 14th amendment, this ruling also requires all states to recognize any same-sex marriage performed in another state. The Obergefell v. Hodges case provided a long-awaited resolution to tenuous legal battles brought forth by a consolidation of several cases — one of which was DeBoer v. Snyder, a case challenging Michigan’s same-sex marriage ban, which subsequently prohibited same-sex couples from jointly adopting children. This momentous but severely overdue ruling by the Court merely marks the beginning of striking down unjust legal barriers and taking steps to dissolve immense discrimination faced by the LGBTQ community. But by recognizing the diverse range of couples and families, today’s decision sets forth a crucial historical precedent to ensure full equality for all.
Over the past decade, the movement for marriage equality has undeniably possessed immense momentum. Previously, same-sex marriage was legal in 37 states and the District of Columbia, but today’s ruling finally ensures that all government proceedings reflect the vast amount of support for same-sex marriage across the country. According to a recent poll by the Pew Research Center, 57 percent of Americans are in favor of same-sex marriage.
The Court’s actions end a decades-long debate that has slowly inched toward altering the definition of marriage under the law. Most recently, two years ago, the Court declared aspects of the discriminatory Defense of Marriage Act to be unconstitutional. The complete legalization of same-sex marriage nationwide was the next logical and inevitable step to ensure equality for the LGBTQ community. As both past and present actions illustrate, it’s integral to the operation of any government to realize the malleability of cultural values and to adjust our laws accordingly as we, as a society, progress.
In the majority opinion, Justice Anthony Kennedy described exactly why adjustment was needed: “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.”
Finally, after denying these individuals their liberty for far too long, the Court’s ruling ensures each marriage will be upheld and recognized according to the same standards. The decision paves the way for equality not only in the realm of marriage and civil unions, but it additionally guarantees accompanying benefits and rights in a variety of areas, such as adoption, health care and financial matters.
All that said, today’s historic decision serves as a reminder of all the progress that has yet to be attained. But certainly, the judgement in Obergefell v. Hodges will aid in successfully combating legalized discrimination that continues to exist in numerous states, including Michigan. For now, though, today’s ruling is a moment to celebrate and a testament to the will of a nation to enact necessary social change.