Supreme Court Rules That Gay Marriage Must Be Recognized Nationwide

The Supreme Court ruled today that states cannot prevent same-sex couples from getting married, and that their unions are valid and must be recognized. This landmark ruling has been decades in the making, and eked by in a 5-4 decision. From the opinon, delivered by Associate Justice Anthony Kennedy:

The Fourteenth Amendment requires States to recognize same- sex marriages validly performed out of State. Since same-sex couples may now 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.

What does this mean? Finally, gay marriage is a constitutional right. The case brought to the Supreme Court is Obergefell v. Hodges, in which Jim Obergefell challenged the state of Ohio to allow him to appear as the spouse on his husband’s death certificate.

Is this permanent? Nothing is ever really permanent, but this is pretty good. Even if the next President replaces the entire Supreme Court with handpicked conservatives hell-bent against gay rights, the only way this could actually be overturned is if a new case made it all the way to the Supreme Court. In order to do that, someone in the lower courts would have to bring a case that challenged this ruling, and the lower courts are bound by what the Supereme Court says, making it considerably more difficult for a case to overturn this decision. They are essentially bound by precedent. Even if a new case challenging this ruling did make it to the Supreme Court, the court would have to overturn itself, which is something that generally doesn’t happen.

This is a landmark decision for equality and human rights. Ultimately, it ended up being a 14th Amendment issue, which offers equal protection for everybody under the law. It’s heartening to see that this is finally being recognized legally, by the highest court in our government, and hopefully, it won’t be overturned.

The opinion itself is a well-written thing of beauty. Here’s a passage that resonates the most.

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 be- come 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 con-demned 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.

Of course, there is a dissent, filed by Justices Thomas, Roberts Scalia and Alito. Justice Clarence Thomas’s contirbution to the dissent is particularly noxious and draws a relatively offensive comparison to slavery, writing “The corollary of that principle is that human dignity cannot be taken away by the government. Slaves did not lose their dignity (any more than they lost their humanity) because the government allowed them to be enslaved.”

Despite the dissent and the ideas contained within, the law stands. Gay marriage is now a constitutional right.