The Supreme Court: Marriage Equality


The story of red, white, and blue meeting up with orange, yellow, green, and violet

The country's reactions to the Supreme Court's landmark decision on marriage equality
Supreme Court of the United States ends marriage discrimination – Photo by Ted Eytan / CC BY 2.0

What did the Supreme Court say?

In the case Obergefell v. Hodges (2015) The Supreme Court held, in a 5-4 decision, that same-sex couples have a constitutional right to marry in all 50 states. This means the 13 states that previously banned same-sex marriage must issue marriage licenses to gay couples, and all states must recognize marriages when lawfully performed out-of-State. Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote the majority opinion, and Chief Justice John Roberts and Justices Samuel Alito, Antonin Scalia, and Clarence Thomas all wrote dissenting opinions, voting against the decision.

What did President Obama say?

The day the ruling was announced, June 26, 2015, President Obama addressed the American people: “This ruling is a victory for America. This decision affirms what millions of Americans already believe in their hearts: When all Americans are treated as equal we are all more free.” The President made history as the first person to mention the issue of gay rights in an inaugural address, and now during his presidency there is marriage equality in all 50 states.

What did Texas say?

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, in a statement on the marriage equality decision made by the Supreme Court, announced that county clerks can refuse to issue marriage licenses if they object to gay marriage. Paxton accused the Supreme Court justices of fabricating the new constitutional right, and advised the clerks to exercise their right to freedom of religion. He made it clear that clerks could be expected to be sued if they did not provide marriage licenses, but he claims they would have sufficient legal support to defend their religious beliefs. “Numerous lawyers stand ready to assist clerks defending their religious beliefs, in many cases on a pro-bono basis, and I will do everything I can from this office to be a public voice for those standing in defense of their rights,” Paxton wrote.

Remember when a few southern states’ government officials refused to accept the Supreme Court’s decision in Brown v. Board of Education? These officials argued that they had the right to reverse federal court decisions if the federal courts were violating the Constitution. However, in Cooper v. Aaron (1958) the court held that only the federal courts can decide when the Constitutions is violated and States cannot nullify decisions of the federal courts.

Is Texas violating the Supreme Court ruling? No, kind of, maybe a little. Well we will see what comes of it.

What did the Episcopalian Church say?

Only days after the Supreme Court’s decision to support marriage equality, the church changed its law to allow same-sex religious marriages. Two Protestant and a few other religious institutions provide weddings to same-sex couples, but this is a big deal for a mainstream Christian denomination church. The gay marriage fight is entering another arena, causing religious and spiritual leaders to reevaluate their stances on the issue. Twelve years after electing the first opening gay bishop, the Episcopalian Church approved the changes to eliminate gender discriminatory language that prevents same-sex couples from having religious weddings with an overwhelming 173-27 majority.

What are the People saying?

Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, and all other social media sites have been buzzing with excitement after the Supreme Court decision, using hashtags such as #lovewins and #loveislove. Facebook has implemented a new feature where you can overlay your Facebook photo with semitransparent, rainbow stripes. Over 26 million people have changed their profile pictures to show the rainbow flag, but not all of the responses to this movement have been positive. Peter Moskowitz wrote an article in the Washington Post about the right to claim pride through struggle and strife and how seeing all the rainbows on Facebook made him feel like people were cheapening rather than understanding the journey of the gay community. Others believe that support, even if it does come from social pressure, is positive and can lead to progress. Social media is a world of its own full of superficiality and deception, but there is also power and potential in a platform that is freely accessible. According to the Pew Research Center, 57% of Americans support same-sex marriage. However, according to my Facebook newsfeed (post-Supreme Court decision), it seems like that percentage is much higher. I do not know whether the disparity is because of my age, my location, or the disproportionate voices of the pro-gay marriage individuals, but social pressure through media could lead to change for gay rights in the future.

EmmaEmma Clark is a senior double majoring in Public Policy & Leadership and Classics with a minor in Global Studies in Education at the University of Virginia. Her passion for education has come from a combination of policy work in the classroom and volunteer work out in the field. She is very excited to be interning with the Department of Government & External Affairs, and Community Impact at Wheelock College for the summer, experiencing education policy first hand.