Obergefell v. Hodges, Nos. 14–556

CourtU.S. Supreme Court
Writing for the CourtJustice KENNEDY delivered the opinion of the Court.
Citation576 U.S. 644,192 L.Ed.2d 609,135 S.Ct. 2584
Decision Date26 June 2015
Docket Number14–574.,14–571,14–562,Nos. 14–556
Parties James OBERGEFELL, et al., Petitioners v. Richard HODGES, Director, Ohio Department of Health, et al.; Valeria Tanco, et al., Petitioners v. Bill Haslam, Governor of Tennessee, et al.; April DeBoer, et al., Petitioners v. Rick Snyder, Governor of Michigan, et al.; and Gregory Bourke, et al., Petitioners v. Steve Beshear, Governor of Kentucky.

576 U.S. 644
135 S.Ct.
2584
192 L.Ed.2d 609

James OBERGEFELL, et al., Petitioners
v.
Richard HODGES, Director, Ohio Department of Health, et al.;

Valeria Tanco, et al., Petitioners
v.
Bill Haslam, Governor of Tennessee, et al.;

April DeBoer, et al., Petitioners
v.
Rick Snyder, Governor of Michigan, et al.; and

Gregory Bourke, et al., Petitioners
v.
Steve Beshear, Governor of Kentucky.

Nos. 14–556
14–562
14–571
14–574.

Supreme Court of the United States

Argued April 28, 2015.
Decided June 26, 2015.


Mary L. Bonauto, for the petitioners.

Donald B. Verrilli, Jr., Solicitor General, for the United States as amicus curiae, by special leave of the Court, supporting the petitioners.

John J. Bursch, Grand Rapids, MI, for the respondents.

Douglas Hallward–Driemeier, Washington, DC, for the petitioners.

Susan L. Sommer, M. Currey Cook, Omar Gonzalez–Pagan, Lambda Legal Defense and Education Fund, Inc., New York, NY, for Henry Petitioners.

135 S.Ct. 2592

James D. Esseks, Steven R. Shapiro, Joshua A. Block, Chase B. Strangio, Ria Tabacco Mar, Louise Melling, American Civil Liberties, Union Foundation, New York, NY, for Obergefell Petitioners.

Alphonse A. Gerhardstein, Counsel of Record, Jennifer L. Branch, Jacklyn Gonzales Martin, Adam Gingold Gerhardstein, Gerhardstein & Branch Co. LPA, Cincinnati, OH, Jon W. Davidson, Lambda Legal Defense and Education Fund, Inc., Los Angeles, CA, Paul D. Castillo, Lambda Legal Defense and Education Fund, Inc., Dallas, TX, Camilla B. Taylor, Lambda Legal Defense and Education Fund, Inc., Chicago, IL, Ellen Essig Katz, Greenberger & Norton, LLP, Cincinnati, OH, for Henry Petitioners.

Freda J. Levenson, Drew S. Dennis, ACLU of Ohio, Inc., Cleveland, OH, for Obergefell Petitioners.

Lisa T. Meeks, Newman & Meeks Co., LPA, Cincinnati, OH, for All Petitioners.

Michael Dewine, Attorney General of Ohio, Eric E. Murphy, Counsel of Record, State Solicitor, Stephen P. Carney, Peter T. Reed, Deputy Solicitors, Columbus, OH, for Respondent.

Abby R. Rubenfeld, Rubenfeld Law Office, PC, Nashville, TN, William L. Harbison, Phillip F. Cramer, J. Scott Hickman, John L. Farringer, Sherrard & Roe, PLC, Nashville, TN, Maureen T. Holland, Holland & Assoc., PC, Memphis, TN, Regina M. Lambert, Knoxville, TN, Douglas Hallward–Driemeier, Counsel of Record, Ropes & Gray LLP, Washington, DC, Christopher Thomas Brown, Justin G. Florence, Ropes & Gray LLP, Boston, MA, Shannon P. Minter, David C. Codell, Christopher F. Stoll, Amy Whelan, Asaf Orr, National Center for Lesbian Rights, San Francisco, CA, Paul S. Kellogg, Ropes & Gray LLP, New York, NY, Samira A. Omerovic, Emerson A. Siegle, John T. Dey, Ropes & Gray LLP, Washington, DC, Joshua E. Goldstein, Ropes & Gray LLP, Boston, MA, for Valeria Tanco, et al., Petitioners.

Herbert H. Slatery III, Attorney General, State of Tennessee, Joseph F. Whalen, Associate Solicitor General, Counsel of Record, Martha A. Campbell, Kevin G. Steiling, Deputy Attorneys General, Alexander S. Rieger, Assistant Attorney General, Office of the Attorney General, Nashville, TN, for William Haslam, et al., Respondents.

Kenneth M. Mogill, Mogill, Posner & Cohen, Lake Orion, MI, Dana M. Nessel, Nessel & Kessel Law, Detroit, MI, Mary L. Bonauto, Gay & Lesbian Advocates & Defenders, Boston, MA, Carole M. Stanyar, Counsel of Record, Ann Arbor, MI, Robert A. Sedler, Wayne State University Law School, Detroit, MI, for April Deboer, et al., Petitioners.

Bill Schuette, Michigan Attorney General, Aaron D. Lindstrom, Solicitor General, B. Eric Restuccia, Deputy Solicitor General, Ann Sherman, Assistant Solicitor General, John J. Bursch, Special Assistant Attorney General, Counsel of Record, Lansing, MI, for Richard Snyder, Governor, State of Michigan, in his official capacity, et al., Respondents.

James D. Esseks, Steven R. Shapiro, Joshua A. Block, Chase B. Strangio, Leslie Cooper, Louise Melling, American Civil Liberties, New York, NY, Jeffrey L. Fisher, Brian Wolfman, Stanford Law School, Supreme Court Litigation Clinic, Stanford, CA, William E. Sharp, American Civil Liberties Union of Kentucky, Louisville, KY, Daniel J. Canon, Counsel of Record, Laura E. Landenwich, L. Joe Dunman, Clay Daniel Walton Adams, PLC, Louisville, KY, Shannon Fauver, Dawn Elliott, Fauver Law Office, PLLC, Louisville, KY, for Gregory Bourke, et al., and Timothy Love, et al., Petitioners.

135 S.Ct. 2593

Leigh Gross Latherow, Counsel of Record, William H. Jones, Jr., Gregory L. Monge, VanAntwerp, Monge, Jones, Edwards & McCann, LLP, Ashland, KY, for Steve Beshear, in His Official Capacity as Governor of Kentucky, Respondent.

Justice KENNEDY delivered the opinion of the Court.

576 U.S. 651

The Constitution promises libertyto all within its reach, a liberty that includes certain specific rights that allow

576 U.S. 652

persons, within a lawful realm, to define and express their identity. The petitioners in these cases seek to find that liberty by marrying someone of the same sex and having their marriages deemed lawful on the same terms and conditions as marriages between persons of the opposite sex.

576 U.S. 653

I

These cases come from Michigan, Kentucky, Ohio, and Tennessee, States that define marriage as a union between one

576 U.S. 654

man and one woman. See, e.g., Mich. Const., Art. I, § 25 ; Ky. Const. § 233A ; Ohio Rev.Code Ann. § 3101.01 (Lexis 2008) ; Tenn. Const., Art. XI, § 18. The petitioners are 14 same-sex couples and two men whose same-sex partners are

576 U.S. 655

deceased. The respondents are state officials responsible for enforcing the laws in question. The petitioners claim the respondents violate the Fourteenth Amendment by denying them the right to marry or to have their marriages, lawfully performed in another State, given full recognition.

576 U.S. 656

Petitioners filed these suits in United States District Courts in their home States. Each District Court ruled in their favor. Citations to those cases are in Appendix A, infra . The respondents appealed the decisions against them to the United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit. It consolidated the cases and reversed the judgments of the District Courts. DeBoer v. Snyder, 772 F.3d 388 (2014). The Court of Appeals held that a State has no constitutional obligation to license same-sex marriages or to recognize same-sex marriages performed out of State.

The petitioners sought certiorari. This Court granted review, limited to two questions. 574 U.S. ––––, ––– S.Ct. ––––, ––– L.Ed.2d –––– (2015). The first, presented by the cases from Michigan and Kentucky, is whether the Fourteenth Amendment requires a State to license a marriage between two people of the same sex. The second, presented by the cases from Ohio, Tennessee, and, again, Kentucky, is whether the Fourteenth Amendment requires a State to recognize a same-sex marriage licensed and performed in a State which does grant that right.

II

Before addressing the principles and precedents that govern these cases, it is appropriate to note the history of the subject now before the Court.

A

From their beginning to their most recent page, the annals of human history

135 S.Ct. 2594

reveal the transcendent importance of marriage. The lifelong union of a man and a woman always has promised nobility and dignity to all persons, without regard to their station in life. Marriage is sacred to those who live by their religions and offers unique fulfillment to those who

576 U.S. 657

find meaning in the secular realm. Its dynamic allows two people to find a life that could not be found alone, for a marriage becomes greater than just the two persons. Rising from the most basic human needs, marriage is essential to our most profound hopes and aspirations.

The centrality of marriage to the human condition makes it unsurprising that the institution has existed for millennia and across civilizations. Since the dawn of history, marriage has transformed strangers into relatives, binding families and societies together. Confucius taught that marriage lies at the foundation of government. 2 Li Chi: Book of Rites 266 (C. Chai & W. Chai eds., J. Legge transl. 1967). This wisdom was echoed centuries later and half a world away by Cicero, who wrote, "The first bond of society is marriage; next, children; and then the family." See De Officiis 57 (W. Miller transl. 1913). There are untold references to the beauty of marriage in religious and philosophical texts spanning time, cultures, and faiths, as well as in art and literature in all their forms. It is fair and necessary to say these references were based on the understanding that marriage is a union between two persons of the opposite sex.

That history is the beginning of these cases. The respondents say it should be the end as well. To them, it would demean a timeless institution if the concept and lawful status of marriage were extended to two persons of the same sex. Marriage, in their view, is by its nature a gender-differentiated union of man and woman. This view long has been held—and continues to be held—in good faith by reasonable and sincere people here and throughout the world.

The petitioners acknowledge this history but contend that these cases cannot end there. Were their intent to demean the revered idea and reality of marriage, the petitioners' claims would be of a different order. But that is neither their purpose nor their submission. To the contrary, it is the enduring importance of marriage that underlies the petitioners' contentions. This, they say, is their whole point.

576 U.S. 658

Far from seeking to devalue marriage, the petitioners seek it for themselves because of their respect—and need—for its privileges and responsibilities. And their immutable nature dictates that same-sex marriage is their only real path to this profound commitment.

Recounting the circumstances of three of these cases illustrates the urgency of the petitioners' cause from their perspective. Petitioner James Obergefell, a plaintiff in the Ohio case, met John Arthur over two decades ago. They fell in love and...

To continue reading

Request your trial
15 practice notes
  • Laguerre v. Maurice, 2018–11567
    • United States
    • New York Supreme Court Appellate Division
    • December 23, 2020
    ...the United States Supreme Court recognized the fundamental right of same-sex couples to marry in all states (see Obergefell v. Hodges, 576 U.S. 644, 675, 135 S.Ct. 2584, 192 L.Ed.2d 609 ).Notably, in New York, "the Human Rights Law, since 2002, has expressly prohibited discrimination based ......
  • Article 70 of the CPLR for A Writ of Habeas Corpus, the Nonhuman Rights Project, Inc. ex rel. Hercules & Leo v. Stanley, 152736/15
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court (New York)
    • July 29, 2015
    ...serve as their own continued justification and new groups could not invoke rights once denied.” (Obergefell v. Hodges, ––– U.S. ––––, 135 S.Ct. 2584, 2602, 192 L.E.2d 609 [2015] ).The past mistreatment of humans, whether slaves, women, indigenous people or others, as property, does not, how......
  • ex rel. Leo v. Stanley
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court (New York)
    • July 29, 2015
    ...serve as their own continued justification and new groups could not invoke rights once denied.” (Obergefell v. Hodges, ––– U.S. ––––, 135 S.Ct. 2584, 2602, 192 L.E.2d 609 [2015] ). The past mistreatment of humans, whether slaves, women, indigenous people or others, as property, does not, ho......
  • Gottlieb v. Gottlieb
    • United States
    • New York Supreme Court Appellate Division
    • January 28, 2016
    ...is consistent with the law's general approach to marriage. As the U.S. Supreme Court recognized in Obergefell v. Hodges, 576 U.S. ––––, 135 S.Ct. 2584, 192 L.Ed.2d 609 (2015), marriage fundamentally alters the legal status of the couple, creating new legal rights and obligations that are no......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
15 cases
  • Laguerre v. Maurice, 2018–11567
    • United States
    • New York Supreme Court Appellate Division
    • December 23, 2020
    ...the United States Supreme Court recognized the fundamental right of same-sex couples to marry in all states (see Obergefell v. Hodges, 576 U.S. 644, 675, 135 S.Ct. 2584, 192 L.Ed.2d 609 ).Notably, in New York, "the Human Rights Law, since 2002, has expressly prohibited discrimination b......
  • Article 70 of the CPLR for A Writ of Habeas Corpus, the Nonhuman Rights Project, Inc. ex rel. Hercules & Leo v. Stanley, 152736/15
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court (New York)
    • July 29, 2015
    ...serve as their own continued justification and new groups could not invoke rights once denied.” (Obergefell v. Hodges, ––– U.S. ––––, 135 S.Ct. 2584, 2602, 192 L.E.2d 609 [2015] ).The past mistreatment of humans, whether slaves, women, indigenous people or others, as property, does not, how......
  • ex rel. Leo v. Stanley
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court (New York)
    • July 29, 2015
    ...serve as their own continued justification and new groups could not invoke rights once denied.” (Obergefell v. Hodges, ––– U.S. ––––, 135 S.Ct. 2584, 2602, 192 L.E.2d 609 [2015] ). The past mistreatment of humans, whether slaves, women, indigenous people or others, as property, does not, ho......
  • Gottlieb v. Gottlieb
    • United States
    • New York Supreme Court Appellate Division
    • January 28, 2016
    ...is consistent with the law's general approach to marriage. As the U.S. Supreme Court recognized in Obergefell v. Hodges, 576 U.S. ––––, 135 S.Ct. 2584, 192 L.Ed.2d 609 (2015), marriage fundamentally alters the legal status of the couple, creating new legal rights and obligations that are no......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

VLEX uses login cookies to provide you with a better browsing experience. If you click on 'Accept' or continue browsing this site we consider that you accept our cookie policy. ACCEPT