Marriage Equality Arrives

It wasn’t much of a surprise, but it’s still breathtaking: in a 5-4 decision in the case of Obergefell v. Hodges, SCOTUS establishes a federal constitutional right to marriage for same-sex couples under the Equal Protection and Due Process clauses of the Fourteenth Amendment. This will sweep away all state limitations on same-sex unions, and will also require that all states recognize previously conducted same-sex marriages in other states.

Justice Kennedy solidified his reputation as the Gay Rights Justice by writing the majority opinion on the second anniversary of his opinion in U.S. v. Windsor (invalidating the Defense of Marriage Act) and the twelfth anniversary of his opinion in Lawrence v. Texas (reversing past SCOTUS approval of state sodomy laws aimed at consenting gay adults).

The Chief Justice, Scalia, Thomas and Alito, all dissented, and all wrote dissenting opinions.

The decision was the most sweeping available to the Court; some had guessed it might simply require state recognition of valid marriages and let the rapidly shrinking minority of states keep their bans for a while–though this approach might have actually raised a number of state bans from the grave where they were consigned by judges also finding a federal constitutional right to marry.

We’ll have more later on this dramatic decision, including the predictable shrieking of conservatives, who have had two consecutive very bad days at SCOTUS.

BTW, there will be at least one more decision announced today (there remain five cases, including four pretty significant ones), and others Monday.

Ed Kilgore

Ed Kilgore, a Monthly contributing editor, is a columnist for the Daily Intelligencer, New York magazine’s politics blog, and the managing editor for the Democratic Strategist.