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Obergefell v. Hodges

Full name: Obergefell et al v. Hodges, Director, Ohio Department of Health, et al

Click here to read the decision

Stephen Breyer
Ruth Bader Ginsburg
Elena Kagan
Anthony Kennedy
Sonia Sotomayor

Samuel Alito
John G. Roberts
Antonin Scalia
Clarence Thomas

Note: Court justices do not represent any political party. The color of each judge's name represents the political party of the president who appointed the judge.

Click here for a list of all Supreme Court justices

Related Issues


What was this case about?

The Supreme Court ruled that marriage is a constitutional right guaranteed to same-sex couples.

Prior to this decision, states had the freedom to decide whether to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples.

How did this get to the Supreme Court?

Same-sex couples in four states (Ohio, Michigan, Kentucky, and Tennessee) challenged the constitutionality of those states' bans on same-sex marriage or refusal to recognize legal same-sex marriages that occurred in other jurisdictions.

How did the court rule?

The court ruled that the Due Process clause (Section 1) of the Constitution's 14th Amendment guarantees the right to marry as a fundamental liberty.

In his majority opinion, Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote that since there are no differences in the principles of marriage - such as creating a household or raising children - between opposite-sex and same-sex marriages, excluding same-sex couples from the right to marry would violate the 14th Amendment.

Therefore, that right applies to same-sex couples in the same manner as it does to opposite-sex couples.

Although states are not allowed to deny same-sex couples the right to marry on the same terms as those for opposite-sex couples, religious organizations may continue to recognize marriage however they define it.

How will this affect couples?

Now that same-sex couples can marry as freely as opposite-sex couples throughout the country, they will be entitled to the same rights as every married couple. These rights include...

o Married parents each have the same parenting rights for their children, such as access to school records.

o The right to make emergency medical decisions for a spouse

o Family visitation rights for hospitals or prisons

o Various survivor benefits, including Social Security.

o Spouses do not have to pay taxes on gifts or inheritances.

o The right to make funeral arrangements for a deceased spouse, as well as funeral and bereavement leave.

o Spousal privilege in court cases

o The ability to sponsor a spouse for immigration benefits

This decision also simplifies many taxes and benefits of same-sex couples living in states that previously did not recognize same-sex marriages. As we previously reported, same-sex couples have been able to file joint federal tax returns. However, if their state required them to file individually, income reporting due to state forms became complicated.

What court cases led to this one?

In 2015, the court ruled in U.S. v. Windsor that the Defense of Marriage Act was unconstitutional, and that the federal government must treat all marriages equally. It did not affect states which did not recognized same-sex marriages.

This decision supersedes Windsor in that states no longer can refuse to recognize same-sex marriages.

In 2003, the Supreme Court ruled in Lawrence v. Texas that it is unconstitutional to make sexual activities between people of the same sex a crime.

Court rules that its decision must be followed

On Aug 31, 2015 the Supreme Court ruled in Davis v. Miller that a Kentucky county clerk cannot refuse to issue marriage licenses because of religious reasons.

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