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Obergefell v Hodges

By: Lilli Erigero

As we celebrate pride month this June, I’d like to spotlight an important LGBTQ+ milestone: the Supreme Court’s Obergefell v Hodges decision.

On June 26, 2015, the Supreme Court announced its decision in Obergefell v Hodges, granting legal recognition of same sex marriages in all 50 states. Every couple, no matter their gender or sexuality, now has the fundamental right to marry who they love.

Obergefell is an accumulation of several cases but started with Jim Obergefell and John Arthur, a couple married in Maryland where same-sex marriage was legal. This marriage, though, was not recognized by the state of Ohio where Arthur and Obergefell resided. When Ohio refused to legally recognize their marriage, the couple filed a lawsuit.

John Arthur, was terminally ill with ALS. The couple merely wanted the Ohio Registrar to identify Jim Obergefell as his surviving spouse on his death certificate, based on their marriage in Maryland.

Many similar cases in Ohio and elsewhere were consolidated into what became Obergefell v. Hodges. On April 28, 2015, the Supreme Court heard the arguments on the federal stage. By June 26, SCOTUS ruled 5-4 in favor of the plaintifs stating that both bans on same-sex marriages and bans on recognizing same-sex marriages were unconstitutional by both the Due Process Clause and the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution.

This ruling means so much more than just marriage. It means that same sex spouses can make decisions for their dying spouses. It means partners being able to raise children together. It means documenting the life and love of people on official documents. Because marriage is a major part of life for many people, it means recognizing the humanity of all people.

Though the Obergefell v Hodges ruling is considered a landmark Supreme Court case championing equal rights, these rights are still in jeopardy in light of Dobbs.

Roe v Wade, another landmark SCOTUS case, granted women the right to have an abortion. Roe granted women the power to choose what was best for their own bodies.The overturning, as we have written before on our blog, is a gross violation of human and civil rights … but what does this have to do with Obergefell?

In Supreme Court Associate Justice Clarence Thomas’s concurring opinion with the court’s decision to overturn Roe, he names Obergefell specifically as another case that needs revisiting. Justice Thomas, a conservative judge appointed by Presidents George W. Bush, joined the court in 1991 and dissented both Obergefell and Lawrence rulings. Lawrence is another landmark civil rights case, establishing that the criminal penalties for sodomy or private sexual acts between consenting adults are unconstitutional.

Now, Thomas claims that the Supreme Court needs to “correct the error” of legal gay marriage. He writes: “we should reconsider all of this Court’s substantive due process precedents, including Griswold, Lawrence, and Obergefell. Because any substantive due process decision is ‘demonstrably erroneous’”.

Obergefell and the rights granted by the ruling are at risk, and since the Court easily overturned Roe, I can’t help but be apprehensive for the future.

Our elected officials need to act now in order to protect these landmark decisions that have granted so many equal rights. We can’t go back in time and need to make it clear to our leaders in every level of government the importance of codifying these laws so that they are irreversible. The horrifying damage of Dobbs is already beginning to show, so these basic fundamental rights have to be protected immediately.


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