It is so ordered… In a 20 page opinion, those four words stand above all. Today, June 26, 2015, the Supreme Court of the United States, in a landmark decision, has explicitly declared that same-sex marriage is a fundamental nationwide right and overturned individual State bans.
The Court, by a very slim margin, ruled that the 14th Amendment protects same-sex marriage and requires a State to license a marriage between two people of the same sex, and further, to recognize a marriage between two people the same sex when their marriage was lawfully licensed and performed out-of-State.
Championed by Justice Kennedy, the opinion gave reference to the changing of times and the realization that these changes have strengthened, not weakened the institution of marriage. The Court held that the 14th Amendment’s Due Process Clause extends to certain personal choices central to an individual’s dignity, autonomy, personal identity, and beliefs. Thus, “Courts must exercise reasoned judgment in identifying interests of the person so fundamental that the State must accord them its respect.” While history and tradition guide and discipline the inquiry, they do not set its outer boundaries. “When new insight reveals discord between the Constitution’s central protections and a received legal stricture, a claim to liberty must be addressed.”
The opinion notes the landmark decisions in Lawrence v. Texas and United States v. Windsor, and focused on four principals to uphold: (1) the right to personal choice regarding marriage is inherent in the concept of individual autonomy, regardless of sexual orientation – this is why Loving v. Virginia invalidated interracial marriage bans under the Due Process Clause; (2) the right to marry is fundamental because it supports a two-person union unlike any other in its importance to the committed individuals, and same sex couples have the same right to enjoy intimate association – this is why Griswold v. Connecticut protected the right of married couples to use contraception; (3) the right to marry safeguards children and families and thus draws meaning from related rights of childrearing, procreation, and education and current marriage laws harm and humiliate the children of same-sex couples – the Court in Pierce v. Society held that children should never suffer the stigma of believing their families are somehow lessor; and (3) marriage is a keystone of the Nation’s social order, and States have contributed to the fundamental character of marriage by placing it at the center of many facets of the legal and social order. Accordingly, it is demeaning to lock same-sex couples out of a central institution of the Nation’s society, for they too may aspire to the transcendent purposes of marriage.
The decision overturns state bans in Michigan, Ohio, Kentucky, and Tennessee and puts to bed several questions left after 2012’s Windsor decision. The decision places America on the right side of history, and we at KingSpry could not be happier for those who have fought for this right for years.
Petitioners, far from seeking to devalue marriage, seek it for themselves because of their respect–and need–for its privileges and responsibilities, as illustrated by their own experience.
 Joined by Justices Ginsburg, Breyer, Sotomayor, and Kagan with Chief Justice Roberts and Justices Scalia, Thomas, and Alito dissenting and each filing dissenting opinions.
Lehigh Valley Family Law is a publication of the KingSpry Family Law Practice Group. It is meant to be informational and does not constitute legal advice. Our editor-in-chief is Donald F. Spry, II.