Legal Arguments on Same Sex Marriage

Yoel Reina
3/5/2017
Contemporary Legal Issues
Dr. Buza, Lori

“Dicks in the Court”

“The limitation of marriage to opposite-sex couples may long have seemed natural and just, but its inconsistency with the central meaning of the fundamental right to marry is now manifest,” claimed Justice Anthony M. Kennedy, whom has tailored all court decisions which recognize gay rights. “With that knowledge, must come the recognition that laws excluding same-sex couples from the marriage right impose stigma and injury of the kind prohibited by our basic charter.”  The news on June 26, 2015 captivated American citizens all around the country, news that may have seemed as ‘too much to absorb’. If an individual was near a live television set, or near the proximity of any telecommunication broadcast, the chants of victory over laws restricting same-sex couples to marry could be heard at an amplified rate.

The issue of gay marriage is a strange one, one which is surrounded by much fervor, emotion and unknown consequences. One must ask, “what consequences would that be?”, Jim Obergefell fought and won the case of Obergefell v. Hodges, a case that Jim did not have to succumb to as his partner passed away in 2013, just two years prior to his victory. “The person I love was physically falling apart, and I was happy and privileged to be able to be there to help him… what else would I do?” – Jim Obergefell (Geidner). To answer the question, the “consequence” is love. The love to feel and be with someone else regardless of their creed and sexuality, the right all human beings should have. The loss Jim faced was tragic, but the tenacity wielded by this individual to take on thousands who opposed his right to marry is immeasurable.

The case of ‘Obergefell v Hodges’, begins when two same-sex individuals bring their case into their respective district, another fourteen same sex couples follow suit. These cases reflect the denial of each individuals right to marry, or the right to have a marriage which was performed at a different state be recognized in their home state. These cases were heard in the states of Ohio, Michigan, Tennessee and Kentucky. “The marriage is between a man and a woman”, were the current outlook and law by the defined states. Strangely enough so early on, each state corresponding to its petitioner ruled in their favor. Unfortunately, the representatives of the current law (marriage between a man and a woman), petitioned the decision by the courts. In turn this caused the Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit to rule in favor of the respondents which in turn reversed the previous ruling by the state courts. The original petitioners decided to continue fighting by escalating the matter to the Supreme Court.

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Alas once the petitioners received certiorari by the Supreme Court, each petitioner argued that the reversal by the respondents violate the Fourteenth Amendment by restricting the individual’s right to marry or denying its recognition. This situation makes it nearly impossible for an individual to be recognized as a married coupled as the laws are not static nationwide and each state can permit or deny gay-marriage. The emotional approach taken by the petitioner is the claim that they viewed marriage by the institution at a high level and they sought that form of value, and it wasn’t an approach to diminish marriage. However, the respondents approach to the situation was that the individuals were attempting not attempting to seek the recognition of marriage, but were in fact looking for a new and unestablished right to marry within the same sex. The respondents reminded the court that marriage is naturally between a man and a woman, the respondents included that the ability for a same-sex couple to marry would demean ‘marriage’ by its core definition. The respondents also claimed that “there is an insufficient amount of democratic discourse to decide on an issue as important as the definition of marriage.” Oddly enough the inclusion of a statement as bizarre as same sex couples’ inability to marry due to the severance of marriage and procreation was also claimed.

Both legal arguments were weighted out by the Supreme Court and a decision was to be made, one which sadly did not pass by a large majority ruling, but a ruling in favor of gay marriage was made none-the-less.  The Court ruled by majority of 5 to 4 in favor of the petitioners. The verdict, carried by Justice Kennedy (Ginsburg, Breyer, Sotomayor, and Kagan, JJ. joined), initially measured the matter arising from the cases of Michigan and Kentucky, of whether states are obligated to record same-sex marriages (Oyez).

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The first testament made by the majority ruling in favor of gay marriage was the fact that marriage has evolved over time due to legal and social attributes. A statement identifying every states disarray on the decision of gay marriage was also brought into light. The Fifth and Fourteenth Amendment also contain a due process clause. “Due process deals with the administration of justice and thus the due process clause acts as a safeguard from arbitrary denial of life, liberty, or property by the Government outside the sanction of law.” The due process clause was strongly used in winning the rights to marry for same sex couples, as liberties protected by the clause extend to choices that are central to a person’s dignity and autonomy. These dignities and autonomous action also stretch into personal beliefs and identity.

The Supreme Court parried the respondents arguments of  “the petitioners not seeking to pursue a right to wed, but in its place pursued an innovative “right to same sex marriage”, with being inconsistent with the Court’s prior method to essential rights, as well as that of matrimonial pairing. The claim that rights could not be restricted only by  individuals who have previously exercised them was also made. If this was the case, law would be stale and would not evolve with the times and social changes. This informal approach would restrict groups from invoking rights denied to them in the past (women’s right to vote, black equality, etc…). Furthermore, same-sex marriage is protected by the equal protection clause, stating that the Court “recognized that new insights and societal understandings can reveal unjustified inequality within our most fundamental institutions that once passed unnoticed and unchallenged”. The marriage laws confronted by the petitioners are “in its core unequal”. The laws deprived same-sex couples all the benefits approved to opposite-sex pairs and labor as seriously committing harm, in essence serving to disregard and declare gays and lesbians as inferior. At the end the respondents showed no evidence of marriages severance due to the acceptance of gay marriage.

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The four Justices who were not in favor of the ruling made their dissenting judgements. Chief Justice Roberts, joined by Scalia, Alito and Thomas, dissented from the majority claiming that the Constitution of the United States does not allow judges to refabricate the definition of marriage as it is a decision to be made by the legislature.  Chief Justice Robert finalized his dissent by claiming that the majority had no legal basis for its conclusion. Scalia was in agreement with Justice Robert’s dissent but included that citizens were robbed of their freedom to govern themselves.

After reading over the case and assessing the competition Jim had I am overwhelmed with joy and thanks to this individual and all those who have fought for my right to legally get married. It is a horrendous thought and a very treacherous approach to deny an individual rights granted to another individual. There was reservation saved specifically for Judge Thomas who is of African American heritage, an individual who shared a history of ancestors whom faced a similar struggle towards equality. Although the African American struggle was much harsher than that of gay rights, it was a struggle none-the-less which should give an understanding and compassion towards the importance of civil liberties and rights for all, one he seemed to forget.

I could not imagine a world where I could not marry the person I love, to be told that I am different and do not have that right. This case is one that puts law into a perspective that not everything is set in stone. Law mutates, it changes and adjusts to the times may they be impacted by the environment or social changes. It also begs to question the Constitution as a whole, does it not? What is the difference between a dream and the U.S. Constitution when both can be translated based on the outlook of the individual, in this case the courts. Alas, although the Court’s did have a majority ruling for gay rights, unfortunately there are dicks (no pun intended to the case), whom are still sitting in the court who’ve not adjusted to the times itself.

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