It’s Official: The Supreme Court will review the freedom to marry in 2015!
January 16, 2015
Today, January 16, the United States Supreme Court announced that this year, they will hear arguments in a case on the question of whether same-sex couples should have the freedom to marry and if anti-marriage laws nationwide should be struck down as unconstitutional. The Court granted review of an out-of-step ruling from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 6th Circuit, which ruled in November against the freedom to marry in Kentucky, Michigan, Ohio and Tennessee. In each of these cases, federal judges had ruled in favor of the freedom to marry for all, and the 6th Circuit reversed each decision.
The Court also set a briefing schedule in the cases, with the plaintiffs' opening brief due February 27, the states' response briefs due March 27, and final reply briefs April 17. That likely puts an oral argument in the case on track for late April, with a decision expected by late June 2015. SCOTUSBlog has reported the argument will likely be April 29.
Freedom to Marry founder and president Evan Wolfson applauded the Supreme Court's decision to hear the cases today. He said:
The Supreme Court's decision today begins what we hope will be the last chapter in our campaign to win marriage nationwide - and it's time. Freedom to Marry's national strategy has been to build a critical mass of marriage states and critical mass of support for ending marriage discrimination, and after a long journey and much debate, America is ready for the freedom to marry. But couples are still discriminated against in 14 states, and the patchwork of discrimination harms families and businesses throughout the country. We will keep working hard to underscore the urgency of the Supreme Court's bringing the country to national resolution, so that by June, all Americans share in the freedom to marry and our country stands on the right side of history.
You can meet many of the plaintiffs whose cases will be heard by the nation's highest court.
Susan Sommer, Director of Constitutional Litigation for Lambda Legal, one of the legal teams in the Ohio case, said:
We are ready to make our case before the Supreme Court to end these discriminatory bans once and for all. The state of Ohio shouldn’t be allowed to disrespect lawful marriages of same-sex couples within its state borders and certainly shouldn’t be allowed to meddle with family matters in states that do respect the marriages of same-sex couples. In fact, no state in the country should continue this disgraceful discrimination.
Currently, same-sex couples in many states face a constitutionally intolerable situation because their home states treat them as legal strangers. Even legally married couples can instantly lose the protections of marriage if they travel or move to a state that does not recognize their marriages. We hope the Supreme Court will finally bring an end to the harms that same-sex couples and their children face when they are treated unequally and excluded from marriage.
We are thrilled the Court will finally decide this issue. The country is ready for a national solution that treats lesbian and gay couples fairly. Every single day we wait means more Americans are harmed by the denial of full marriage rights – more people die before they have a chance to marry, more children are born without proper protections, more people face medical emergencies without being able to count on recognition of their spouses. It is time for the American values of freedom and equality to apply to all couples.
Daniel Canon of Clay Daniel Walton & Adams, counsel in the Kentucky case, which was originally filed by Fauver Law Office and later joined by the American Civil Liberties Union and Stanford Law School's Supreme Court Litigation Clinic, said:
We appreciate the opportunity to present the stories of our clients, some of whom have been in loving, committed relationships for decades. They, like other couples in Kentucky and elsewhere, have been denied their fundamental rights for far too long. We are hopeful the Court will fully and finally invalidate the discriminatory anti-marriage laws of Kentucky and other states.
Dana Nessel, counsel in the Michigan case, along with Gay & Lesbian Advocates & Defenders, said:
By choosing to hear the DeBoer case, the Court now has the opportunity to end the injustices facing gay families in Michigan and so many other states, and to ensure that same-sex couples nationwide are free to move for work, school, or to care for elderly parents without jeopardizing their family’s security.
Earlier this year, in October, the Supreme Court denied review in five other marriage cases, which all had pro-marriage decisions from federal appellate courts. With the 6th Circuit’s out-of-step ruling causing a split in the circuits, the Supreme Court’s decision to grant review today could at last bring the country to national resolution.
Since June 2013, when the U.S. Supreme Court struck down the core of the so-called Defense of Marriage Act, a momentous chorus of nearly 60 rulings in state and federal court have held that denying the freedom to marry to same-sex couples is unconstitutional. Read all about the rulings here. In just five decisions – the 6th Circuit ruling, federal decisions from Louisiana and Puerto Rico, and state court divorce cases from Tennessee and Florida – have anti-marriage laws been upheld.
Today’s decision from the U.S. Supreme Court is a signal that many members of the Court understand that it's time for national resolution on this fundamental question of fairness.
In the coming months, supporters of the freedom to marry must continue to raise their voices in support of ending the denial of marriage to same-sex couples. By amplifying the voices of a bipartisan, multigenerational, geographically diverse array of messengers, we can make the case that America - all of America - is ready for the freedom to marry, and that every day of denial is a day of indignity and injustice for real American families. Learn more about the tangible harms of denying the freedom to marry to same-sex couples here.
You can leave your mark on this crucial moment for the freedom to marry by donating to Freedom to Marry HERE.