With Sweeping New Ruling, Marriage Equality Must Begin in All 50 States

by HRC Staff

Governors, Attorneys General, and officials everywhere should heed the call of history, begin issuing marriage licenses to loving same-sex couples

In a historic 5-4 ruling, today the Supreme Court of the United States found bans on marriage equality to be unconstitutional—and that the fundamental right to marriage is a fundamental right for all. The majority’s opinion, authored by Justice Anthony Kennedy, represents a clear mandate for governors, state attorneys general and officials everywhere to cease their attempts to uphold these discriminatory statutes.

“Today’s ruling makes perfectly clear that there is no legal or moral justification for standing in the path of marriage equality. Couples from Mississippi to North Dakota to Texas shouldn’t have to wait even a moment longer to be treated equally under the law,” said HRC president Chad Griffin. “State officials across the country must act swiftly to ensure that every obstacle to obtaining a marriage license is removed. To do anything less is a shameful attempt to cement their state on the wrong side of history. But what’s clear today is that our work isn’t done until every discriminatory law in this nation is wiped away. The time has come in this country for comprehensive federal LGBT non-discrimination protections. We now have to work harder than ever before to make sure LGBT Americans cannot be fired, evicted or denied services simply on the basis of the marriage license that they fought so hard to achieve.”

Named plaintiff in the case, Jim Obergefell, also issued the following statement in reaction to the ruling:

"Today I could not be prouder of my country, more grateful for the memory of my late husband John, and more indebted to the incredible lawyers, advocates and fellow plaintiffs who made this landmark day possible. The fact that the state I have long called home will finally recognize my marriage to the man I honored and cherished for more than 20 years is a profound vindication—a victory I'm proud to share with countless more couples across the country. Thanks to the Supreme Court, a period of deep injustice in this nation is coming to a close, but it's also clear today that there is still so much work to do. As long as discrimination against lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people is tolerated—whether in the seeking of a marriage license, the pursuit of fairness on the job, or the fight for equal treatment at a restaurant or business—we haven't truly guaranteed equal justice under the law. But today's victory proves that anything is possible, and I could not be more hopeful about the capacity of this country to change for the better."

The ruling comes at a consequential and grave moment for civil rights nationwide. Last week, a white supremacist gunman opened fire at a historically black church in Charleston, South Carolina, killing 9 black Americans. Today, President Barack Obama will deliver a eulogy at the memorial service of one of the victims, the late State senator Clementa Pinckney. Around the country, voices across the political spectrum are calling for Confederate flag imagery to be removed from the public square. HRC stands in broad coalition with other LGBT organizations and civil rights groups in opposing public celebration of the Confederate flag and in protecting and restoring key pieces of civil rights legislation like the Voting Rights Act. 

No one ruling—and no one law—can finish the work of liberty and justice for all. That’s why the LGBT movement is today redoubling its efforts to full equality. In addition to fighting to end marriage discrimination in every state, in the coming months HRC will lead the fight for a sweeping federal non-discrimination bill—legislation that seeks to protect LGBT people and their families from discrimination in employment, housing, public accommodations, credit, federal funding, education and jury service. HRC will redouble its efforts through campaigns like Project One America and the work of the HRC Foundation to guarantee that the lived experience of LGBT people realizes the legal principle of “equal justice under law.”

“Our work is far from complete. As we saw in Indiana and Arkansas earlier this year, the opponents of equality will stop at nothing to enshrine discrimination into law, and we don’t believe for one second that this fight is over,” said Griffin.  “Even with today’s ruling, tonight, somewhere in this country an LGBT young person will spend many sleepless hours feeling helpless and hopeless because of discrimination they face at school, in church, even around their own dinner table. Our job now is to guarantee that they can have true and lasting hope at last—and that they are fully protected from discrimination at the federal level and in the state that they call home.”

On April 28, the U.S. Supreme Court heard oral arguments in Obergefell v Hodges, a case originating in Ohio. The arguments followed a January announcement by the Supreme Court that it would hear Obergefell along with three other cases from Michigan, Kentucky, and Tennessee. The arguments were consolidated under the name Obergefell, and the questions posed by the court dealt with the constitutionality of marriage bans more broadly. Prior to today’s decision, marriage equality had come to 37 states as well as the District of Columbia—representing more than 70 percent of the U.S. population.

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