The Freedom to Marry at the United States Supreme Court

This spring, the United States Supreme Court will review cases from four states on the freedom to marry, with argument scheduled for Tuesday, April 28. This historic moment is exactly what so many people – from the families who fought for their marriages, to the legal teams and organizations who have shepherded these cases – have been working toward for over a decade. (Updated 4/3/15)

THE CASES
POLLING
SCHEDULE
WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW:

SCOTUS TIMELINE:

  • February 27: Plaintiffs' briefs were due to the U.S. Supreme Court
  • March 27: Defendants' briefs were due to the U.S. Supreme Court
  • April 17: Final reply briefs are due to the U.S. Supreme Court
  • April 28: Oral argument scheduled for this week
  • June 2015: Expected ruling from the U.S. Supreme Court

This follows the Court’s denial of review in all five cases where federal appellate courts had ruled in favor of the freedom to marry, opening the door for same-sex marriages to take effect in the 11 non-marriage states within those circuits.

SCOTUS Amicus Briefs in Favor of the Freedom to Marry:

2,000+ Clergy & Faith Leaders:

A broad range of religious groups, organizations, and leaders - including nearly 2,000 individual clergy - have signed onto this brief arguing in favor of civil marriage for same-sex couples. The signers represent people of faith living in each of the 50 states and Washington, D.C.

400 Businesses & Corporations:

Nearly 400 major American companies, including 40 of the Fortune 100 companies, signed a brief making the business case for marriage. The employers argue that the patchwork of marriage laws across the country cause them great financial burdens and impede their ability to administrate effectively.

mayors of america's cities

226 mayors and an additional 40 cities signed onto this brief making the case that the freedom to marry strengthens America's cities. Mayors from 38 states plus the District of Columbia are represented, with a wide range of jursidctions - from the smallest of towns to the top five largest cities in the country - speaking out in support of marriage. The brief also includes the U.S. Conference of Mayors, the National League of Cities, and the International Municipal Lawyers Association.

Republican Leadership

More than 300 conservatives and Republicans have signed onto this historic brief making the case that the freedom to marry is a conservative value - and that marriage is strengthened, and its value to society and to individual families and couples is promoted, by providing access to civil marriage for all American couples.

ALL AMICI BRIEFS

POLLING on majority support for the freedom to marry:

A National Supermajority:

A February 2015 poll from CNN/ORC found that 63% of Americans believe that same-sex couples have a constitutional freedom to marry. The poll also showed that there is a majority support for marriage in every region of the country, as well as majority support in every age group (with 52% of Americans over the age of 65 saying they support marriage for same-sex couples and 70% of  respondents under 50). 

Bipartisan Momentum:

A February 2014 poll from The Washington Post/ABC News shows that support for the freedom to marry crosses party lines, with 40% of Republicans favoring marriage for same-sex couples, with 23% strongly supportive. A 2013 poll tracks support among Republicans and GOP-leaning Independents ages 18-49 at 52%.

Coast-to-Coast Support:

The CNN/ORC poll also tracked unprecedented levels of support for marriage in every region of the country, with support at 67% in the West, 60% in the Midwest, 70% in the Northeast, and a record 57% in the South.

The SUPREME COURT

The national strategy to win marriage for same-sex couples has always focused on a final victory at the U.S. Supreme Court. In the past two years alone, there have been 65 rulings in favor of marriage for same-sex couples - clearly demonstrating that the country is ready and that the age-old arguments against the freedom to marry simply don’t survive judicial review.

Finally, the question of whether same-sex couples everywhere can marry will have its day before our nation’s highest court. In January, the Court granted review of cases from four states - Kentucky, Michigan, Ohio and Tennessee – with oral arguments likely be held in late April.

This historic moment follows years of steady momentum, from increasing public support, to four referendum victories in 2012, to even the Court itself, when it denied petitions in five marriage cases in October 2014, thereby allowing the freedom to marry to take effect in 11 states.

It’s time for a national resolution by the Supreme Court when nearly 72 percent of Americans live in a state that grants marriage to same-sex couples. There are now just 13 states without the freedom to marry, and those families continue to face harm every single day.

The Cases

BOURKE v. Beshear & LOVE v. Beshear

Bourke District Court Victory 2/12/14 • Love District Court Victory 7/1/14 

On Feb. 12, a federal judge ruled in Bourke v. Beshear that Kentucky must respect the marriages of same-sex couples legally performed in other states. The lawsuit was brought by private firm Fauver Law Office, later joined by Clay Daniel Walton & Adams, the American Civil Liberties Union and Stanford Law School's Supreme Court Litigation Clinic.

Almost immediately, Attorney General Jack Conway announced he would not defend marriage discrimination, yet on March 18, Gov. Steve Beshear filed an appeal with private counsel.

Shortly after the ruling, two unmarried same-sex couples in Kentucky were granted a motion to intervene in the case, and on July 1, under the new name Love v. Beshear, the same federal judge ruled that Kentucky's marriage ban is unconstitutional.

RESOURCES, Bourke & Love v. Beshear:

obergefell v. Hodges & Henry v. Hodges 

Obergefell District Court Victory 12/23/13 • Henry District Court Victory 4/14/14

On Dec. 23rd, a federal judge ruled in Obergefell v. Wymyslo (now Obergefell v. Hodges) that the state of Ohio must respect the marriages of same-sex couples legally performed in other states for the purpose of listing surviving spouses on death certificates. In April 2014, in a separate federal case, Henry v. Himes (now Henry v. Hodges) the same judge ruled that Ohio must respect all married same-sex couples who wed in other states for all state purposes. Both cases were brought by private firms Gerhardstein & Branch Co., LPA and Newman & Meeks Co., LPA, with the ACLU joining Obergefell and Lambda Legal joining Henry.

RESOURCES, Obergefell & Henry v. Hodges:

DeBoer v. Snyder

District Court Victory 3/21

On March 21st, a federal judge ruled in favor of the freedom to marry in DeBoer v. Snyder, striking down the marriage ban for same-sex couples. For the next 24 hours, more than 300 same-sex couples across the state received marriage licenses until the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals granted a stay in the decision. The case is led by Michigan attorneys Carole M. Stanyar; Dana Nessel of Nessel and Kessel Law; Kenneth Mogill of Mogill, Posner & Cohen; Wayne State University Law Professor Robert Sedler; and Mary Bonauto of the Boston-based Gay & Lesbian Advocates & Defenders (GLAD).

The ruling followed a landmark, two-week trial where both sides presented evidence and witnesses on marriage for same-sex couples. In his decision, Judge Bernard A. Friedman strongly dismissed testimony from the defendants' key witness, Mark Regnerus, author of the so-called "New Family Structures Study." The judge wrote that Regnerus' study - which has been repeatedly refuted by leading parenting and psychological organizations - was "entirely unbelievable and not worthy of serious consideration."

RESOURCES, DeBoer v. Snyder:

Tanco v. Haslam

District Court Victory 3/14

On March 14th, a federal judge ordered state officials to respect the marriages of three same-sex couples whose lawsuit, Tanco v. Haslam, challenges the state’s marriage ban. The couples are represented by the National Center for Lesbian Rights. The judge ruled that since the plaintiffs were likely to prevail in their case, they should be respected as married as the lawsuit proceeds.

The state of Tennessee appealed the ruling to the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals, requesting stay on the decision. Although Judge Aleta Trauger initially denied the motion, in April, the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals granted the request to put the ruling on hold as it proceeds. 

RESOURCES, Tanco v. Haslam: