In a sign of the times, a ground breaking landmark opinion, the Supreme Court ruled Friday June 26, 2015, that states cannot ban same-sex marriage, establishing a new civil right and handing gay rights advocates a victory that until very recently would have seemed unthinkable.
This shocking decision of 5-4 ruling had Justice Anthony Kennedy writing for the majority with the four liberal justices.
Each of the four conservative justices wrote their own dissent.
“No union is more profound than marriage, for it embodies the highest ideals of love, fidelity, devotion, sacrifice and family,” Kennedy wrote. “In forming a marital union, two people become something greater than they once were.”
The far-reaching decision settles one of the major civil rights fights of this era — one that has rapidly evolved in the minds of the American pubic and its leaders, including President Barack Obama. He struggled publicly with the issue and ultimately embraced same-sex marriage in the months before his 2012 re-election.In a dissent, Justice Antonin Scalia blasted the Court’s “threat to American democracy.”
“The substance of today’s decree is not of immense personal importance to me,” he wrote. “But what really astounds is the hubris reflected in today’s judicial Putsch.”
The relevant cases were argued earlier this year. Attorney John Bursch, serving as Michigan’s Special Assistant Attorney General, defended four states’ bans on gay marriage before the Court, arguing that the case was not about how to define marriage, but rather about who gets to decide the question.
The case came before the Supreme Court after several lower courts overturned state bans on gay marriage. A federal appeals court had previously ruled in favor of the state bans, with Judge Jeffrey Sutton of the Sixth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals writing a majority opinion in line with the rationale that the issue should be decided through the political process, not the courts.
Fourteen couples and two widowers challenged the bans. Attorneys Mary Bonauto and Doug Hallward-Driemeier presented their case before the Court, arguing that the freedom to marry is a fundamental right for all people and should not be left to popular vote.