Victory at Last: SCOTUS rules for the freedom to marry nationwide, once and for all
June 26, 2015
Today, June 26, 2015, the United States Supreme Court issued a historic, sweeping ruling in favor of the freedom to marry in Obergefell v. Hodges. The unprecedented decision, decades in the making, will soon bring the freedom to marry to same-sex couples across the country, ending marriage discrimination once and for all. Follow our Live Blog HERE for up-to-the-minute updates on what's going on in the states.
The ruling means that same-sex couples throughout the entire nation will no longer be banned from the rights and responsibilities of marriage guaranteed by the Constitution.
Evan Wolfson, founder and president of Freedom to Marry, celebrated joyously with the thousands of Americans couples who will finally be able to share in the fundamental freedom to marry the person they love. He said:
Today’s ruling is a transformative triumph decades in the making, a momentous victory for freedom, equality, inclusion, and above all, love. For anyone who ever doubted that we could bend the arc of the moral universe toward justice, today the United States again took a giant step toward the more perfect union we the people aspire to. Today the Liberty Bell rings alongside wedding bells across an ocean of joy.
With the ruling in Obergefell v. Hodges, the justices affirmed what a super-majority of Americans had come to understand: the freedom to marry is a precious, fundamental right that belongs to all, and that same-sex couples and our families share the same dreams and needs as any others.
Freedom to Marry has long worked toward winning marriage nationwide, always with the ultimate goal of winning at the United States Supreme Court. The decision today was issued in cases brought by the American Civil Liberties Union, Gay & Lesbian Advocates & Defenders, Lambda Legal, the National Center for Lesbian Rights, as well as local counsel from Kentucky, Michigan, Ohio and Tennessee. Learn about each of the cases here.
A Decades-in-the-Making Ruling
The ruling today is the result of years and years of hard work by marriage advocates to end marriage discrimination nationwide. The first marriage case, Baker v. Nelson, was brought to the United States Supreme Court in 1973, over 40 years ago, by Richard Baker and James Michael McConnell, who were denied a marriage license by the Hennepin County District Court's clerk on May 18, 1970.
Twenty years later, the first ruling in favor of the freedom to marry came down. In 1993, in the case Baehr v. Lewin, the Hawaii Supreme Court ruled that that denying marriage to same-sex couples violated the Equal Protection Clause of the Hawaii Constitution.
Evan Wolfson, a key lawyer in the Hawaii marriage case that brought the first court victory for the freedom to marry, explained that this outcome was a result of tireless work changing people's minds as well as winning court battles:
Today’s win is the culmination of a decades-long campaign that successfully made the case in the court of public opinion, enabling victories in the courts of law.
Freedom to Marry calls on state officials to swiftly and faithfully implement the Constitution’s command in the remaining 13 states with marriage discrimination, so that all Americans can marry the person they love and build and protect their families, without delay, throughout the land.
While the work towards equality for all Americans is far from over, the Freedom to Marry campaign has been transformative in Americans’ understanding of who gay people are.
Harnessing the Momentum
As state officials now begin to carry out the Supreme Court's order, we know that there is much to do still in the realm of LGBT rights. However, as Evan Wolfson pointed out, Freedom to Marry's goal was achieved today:
The movement will continue to harness the power of the marriage conversation and win in the work ahead – including passage of a federal civil rights bill, securing state and local protections against discrimination, tending to the needs of our youth and our seniors, and ensuring that the lived experience of gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender people is fulfilling, good, inclusive, and equal throughout the land. But the work of this Freedom to Marry campaign is now accomplished. Over the next several months, Freedom to Marry will collaborate with key movement colleagues to smartly and strategically wind down its work and document lessons learned, and then close its doors, having achieved its goal of winning marriage nationwide and helping loving and committed couples cross the threshold to marriage and full inclusion in society, with equal justice under law.
Implementing the Ruling
The 13 states where same-sex couples have not, until this point, been able to share in the freedom to marry are Ohio, Michigan, Tennessee, Kentucky, Alabama, Texas, Arkansas, Georgia, Mississippi, Nebraska, North Dakota, South Dakota, and Missouri. This ruling changes everything for the families who call these states home: now, the already married couples in these states will have the same legal standing as any other couple, and the couples who are not yet married will soon be able to have legal weddings of their dreams.
As for same-sex couples who live in the 37 states that enacted the freedom to marry before this ruling, their marriages are now valid wherever they travel within the United States, and should receive the rights of being married no matter what state they are in. This ending of patchwork marriage laws, in addition to making families' dreams come true, has lessened an economic burden on our country.
- Follow the Freedom to Marry Live Blog to get updates as we hear of more developments across states, messages from our supporters, and some explainers for what this might mean in your state.
- Read the ruling in Obergefell v. Hodges that resulted in the freedom to marry nationwide.
- Read Lessons Learned from Freedom to Marry and how we got to this historic point with key media clips from across the years.
- Learn about what this ruling means for you with this resource compiled by the American Civil Liberties Union, Freedom to Marry, Gay & Lesbian Advocates & Defenders, Lambda Legal, and the National Center for Lesbian Rights.