This summer, the Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) will finally announce a decision on the historic marriage equality case currently before the justices. 

The Court heard oral arguments in April, and will now address the two questions posed in Obergefell v. Hodges:

Question 1: Does the U.S. Constitution require states to perform same-sex marriages?

Question 2: Does the Constitution require states to recognize same-sex marriages performed in other states?

While the historic 2013 Supreme Court case United States v. Windsor struck down Section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act ensuring that legally married same-sex couples would be recognized by the federal government, the current case before SCOTUS could make history with the potential of nationwide marriage equality.

According to HRC Legal Director Sarah Warbelow, on decision day, the Supreme Court could rule one of the following ways:

Outcome 1: If the Supreme Court sides with marriage equality on question 1, then question 2 is irrelevant, which means that marriage equality comes to all 50 states.

Outcome 2: If the Court rules narrowly with a “no” on question 1, but rules “yes” on question 2, some states will maintain marriage equality. Some states will again be at play to advance access to marriage equality. All legally married couples will be recognized in every state.

Outcome 3: If the Court rules “no” on question 1 and “no” on question 2, then same-sex couples living in the 13 states without marriage equality and no state recognition are left without marriage rights.Some states will keep marriage equality rights, but some states will again be at play.

The past few years have proved momentous in the fight for marriage equality. In the past year alone, 80 marriage equality cases have worked their way through the judicial system across the country. Thirty-six states and the District of Columbia now have marriage equality. A recent poll found that 61 percent of Americans believe that LGBT couples should be able to married.

Nationwide marriage equality ensures that same-sex couples are recognized on the state level for tax purposes, healthcare decision-making, and inheritance determinations.  On the federal level, these couples gain access to critical lifeline benefits like Social Security and Veterans spousal benefits-- programs that have remained out of reach for couples living in states that do not recognize their marriage.

As we eagerly await the Supreme Court’s decision, it is clear what is at stake.

Click to Enlarge. 

What's at Stake at the Supreme Court

Stay tuned for breaking news from the Supreme Court and hrc.org/SCOTUS for more information on this historic case.


Filed under: Marriage, SCOTUS

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