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Supreme Court Affirms the Right for Same Sex Couples to Marry – Legally, Now What?

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The Ruling

The United States Supreme Court confirmed the right of same-sex couples to marry today in its decision in Obergefell v Hodges.  In its opinion, the Court found that “same-sex couples may exercise the fundamental right to marry in all States.”  It also found that “there is no lawful basis for a State to refuse to recognize a lawful same-sex marriage performed in another State on the ground of its same-sex character.”

In reaching its conclusion, the Court extended the fundamental right to marry guaranteed by the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment to same-sex couples based on four principles.  The Court reasoned that (1) “the right to personal choice regarding marriage is inherent in the concept of individual autonomy,” (2) “the right to marry is fundamental because it supports a two-person union unlike any other in its importance to the committed individuals,” (3) the right to marry “safeguards children and families and thus draws meaning from related rights of childrearing, procreation and education,” and (4) “the Nation’s traditions make clear that marriage is a keystone of our social order.”

The Court also made clear in its opinion that the rights of same-sex couples to exercise this fundamental right cannot be delayed.  Same-sex couples do not need to wait for legislative action to exercise these rights.