Forty-five years after the American Civil Liberties Union filed the first-ever freedom-to-marry lawsuit in 1970, the US Supreme Court on June 26, 2015, struck down discriminatory marriage bans in Michigan and three other states, its historic decision securing marriage equality for gay and lesbian couples all across the country.
The ruling invalidates discriminatory laws in Kentucky, Michigan, Ohio, and Tennessee upheld by the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals, and as a practical matter, requires all 50 states to allow same-sex couples to marry.
The court’s 5-4 opinion holds that state marriage bans violate the due process and equal protection provisions of the U.S. Constitution. Recognizing that “marriage embodies a love that may endure even past death,” the Court held that the Constitution grants to same-sex couples the right to “equal dignity in the eyes of the law.”
The case is captioned Obergefell v. Hodges and is made up of cases from Kentucky, Michigan, Ohio, and Tennessee. The American Civil Liberties Union represented plaintiffs in Kentucky cases Bourke v. Beshear and Love v. Beshear and in Ohio case Obergefell, et al. v. Hodges with private firms.
More than fifty courts ruled in favor of marriage equality following the Supreme Court’s watershed 2013 decision in United States v. Windsor that struck down the federal Defense of Marriage Act. In January 2015, the high court granted review of an aberrant Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals ruling that upheld marriage bans in the four states – the first appeals court to do so after Windsor.