In a landmark decision, the Supreme Court issued its opinion in Obergefell v. Hodges today, settling the score and guaranteeing the equal protection of law to same-sex marriage. The Court held by a vote of 5-4 that the 14th Amendment requires states to license marriages between two people of the same sex. The decision means that the Constitution requires the equal treatment of all marriages. The decision also held that states may no longer reserve the right to be married only for heterosexual couples.
Same-sex marriage became legal in North Carolina in October of 2014 when U.S. District Judge Max Cogburn made a ruling in a lawsuit striking down North Carolina’s laws restricting marriage to a man and a woman. This ruling effectively wiped out Amendment One, which was a constitutional same-sex marriage ban that was voter-approved. Despite all of this, the issue has been surrounded by opposition and contention since Judge Cogburn’s ruling. Today’s Supreme Court decision should effectively override any opposition or contention that remains attached to same-sex marriage in North Carolina.
The Supreme Court opinion was written by Justice Kennedy, joined by Justices Ginsburg, Breyer, Sotomayor, and Kagan. In his opinion, Justice Kennedy stated “The court now holds that same-sex couples may exercise the fundamental right to marry. No longer may this liberty be denied to them.” Justice Kennedy went on to say “The nature of marriage is that, through its enduring bond, two persons can together find other freedoms, such as expression, intimacy, and spirituality. This is true for all persons, whatever their sexual orientation.”
Kennedy based his decision on four principles that he stated demonstrate why same-sex couples should have the right to marry:
(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”;
(4) Marriage is a “keystone of the nation’s social order”;
The date of this decision is also historic. June 26 is the anniversary of two other landmark cases for same-sex rights that were both written by Justice Kennedy; Lawrence v. Texas and Windsor v. United States. Lawrence v. Texas upheld the right to engage in intimate same-sex conduct and Windsor v. United States struck down key portions of the Defense of Marriage Act.
If you are a same-sex couple in North Carolina and you have questions about your right to marriage, give the skilled attorneys at SeiferFlatow a call at 704-512-0606 to set up a consultation. Same-sex marriage is about equality. You have equal rights to protect the life you and your partner have built together. Trust the attorneys at SeiferFlatow to help deliver you safely through this changing time.