Today marks a huge victory for marriage equality. In a landmark decision, the United States Supreme Court ruled that same-sex couples have a Constitutional right to marry. The Texas ban – and those of the 12 other states that have same-sex marriage bans on the books – are unconstitutional.
The Court’s decision was sharply split, with all 4 justices writing their own dissents. Chief Justice Roberts even read his dissent aloud when the Court handed down its opinion, an unprecedented move for him.
The majority opinion was penned by Justice Kennedy, who has become an unlikely champion for LGBT rights. Justice Kennedy also wrote the landmark gay-rights opinions in the 2003 case Lawrence v. Texas, which struck down Texas law that criminalized same-sex sexual conduct and 2013’s U.S. v. Windsor, which struck down the Federal Defense of Marriage Act.
“Marriage,” Justice Kennedy noted, “responds to the universal fear that a lonely person might call out only to find no one there. It offers the hope of companionship and understanding and assurance that while both still live there will be someone to care for the other.”
The majority described four reasons that same-sex couples have a Constitutional 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) marriage safeguards children and families; and (4) marriage is the “keystone of our social order.”
For these reasons, “the right to marry is a fundamental right inherent in the liberty of the person, and under the Due Process and Equal Protection Clauses of the Fourteenth Amendment couples of the same-sex may not be deprived of that right and that liberty.”
This opinion is certainly cause for celebration, but in states such as Texas, counties will vary in their approach. Counties technically are not required to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples until the mandate issues, but some counties are immediately issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples. In Dallas County, the county clerk’s office and some district judges are working together to help same-sex couples marry beginning today.
On the other hand, in counties like Harris County and Smith County, the County Clerks are waiting to receive new forms from Attorney General Paxton’s office before granting licenses. For its part, the Office of the Attorney General of Texas issued a statement making clear it does not agree with the Supreme Court’s decision.
The Supreme Court’s Opinion: http://www.supremecourt.gov/opinions/14pdf/14-556_3204.pdf
Dallas County Clerk’s Marriage Instructions https://dallasdayofdecision.files.wordpress.com/2015/06/dallas-county-marriage-how-to-on-dod-june-2015.pdf.