Supreme Court grants same-sex marriage right in all 50 states
The U.S. Supreme Court has declared that the marriage of same-sex couples is legal in all fifty states Friday morning, and that the existing lawful marriages of those couples must be recognized in states, like Louisiana, that have same-sex marriage bans. But local clerks of court interviewed Friday morning said it will likely be close to a month before licenses for same-sex couples will be issued.
The high court’s opinion was based primarily on the equal protection and due process clauses of the U.S. Constitution.
“No union is more profound than marriage, for it embodies the highest ideals of love, fidelity, devotion, sacrifice and family … It would misunderstand these men and women to say they
disrespect the idea of marriage. Their plea is that they do respect it, respect it so deeply that they seek to find its fulfillment for themselves,” Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote for the court’s 5-4 majority that equal protection clause of the U.S. Constitution’s 14th Amendment, , in the Obergefell v. Hodges opinion, released Friday morning. The case was brought 14 couples and two men whose partners are deceased, from Michigan, Kentucky, Ohio, and Tennessee, after the Sixth Circuit upheld bans on same-sex marriages in those states. “Their hope is not to be condemned to live in loneliness, excluded from one of civilization’s oldest institutions. They ask for equal dignity in the eyes of the law. The Constitution grants them that right.”
The Supreme Court allows 25 days from the date of an opinion for re-hearings, which is why local clerks of court are not yet issuing licenses to same-sex couples. The Louisiana Association of Clerks of Court advised clerks against issuing licenses immediately on the advice of its own counsel, Executive Director Debbie Hudnall said.
“We are waiting until after that 25 days in case there is a re-hearing,” said Terrebonne Clerk of Court Theresa Robichaux. “Once we get word that is is clear to issue it is the law so we will have to uphold the law.”
Lafourche Clerk of Court Vernon Rodrigue said he is also following the Association’s advice, obtained after consulting with their own legal counsel.
The clerks said they have much work to do in the meantime, such as changing forms to use for the licenses.
“That 25 days gives us time to get that done,” Robichaux said.
Clerks of court, Robichaux noted, take an oath to uphold the laws and constitutions of the U.S. and the state. “It is not up to us to determine one way or another.”
Cases involving the issue are still pending before the U.S. Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals , including those brought by couples from Louisiana. The Supreme Court ruling would govern the Fifth Circuit’s decision.
“LOVE WINS ALWAYS”
Local couples greeted the decision with tears and phone calls to spouses or partners.
“We are obviously ecstatic at the news. Today is one of the biggest steps in our fight for marriage equality to date and we are excited about the future and what this opinion will actually do for my family, in terms of our marriage being recognized and joint adoption for our 2 ½ -year old son and our child that I am carrying right now,” said Courtney Blanchard of Raceland. She and her wife, Nadine, are among the plaintiffs in the Fifth Circuit case and went to court to have their marriage, performed in Iowa, recognized by Louisiana. “I was very positive on the outcome but there’s always that thought in back my mind that what if… what if they rule against us…what would we do? Thankfully we don’t have to worry though and now is the time to celebrate. Love wins…always.”
Robert Welles and Garth Beauregard of New Orleans, whose case is also currently before the Fifth Circuit, are waiting for clarification before heading back to the Bureau of Vital Records in the Crescent City for the marriage license they were previously denied. Their attorney, Scott Spivey, was composing a letter to the appeals court Friday morning seeking a decision. “Louisiana will be the last one to do it, I am certain they are.”
Speaking for himself and his husband Jon, who is from Terrebonne Parish, Derek Penton-Robicheaux, expressed pleasure “with what we knew would be a landmark decision.”
“Today love has won,” Penton-Robicheaux said. “Love for all Americans. The Supreme Court has agreed that love has equal protection under the law.”
The Penton-Robicheauxs were also married in Iowa, where Gov. Bobby Jindal was engaged in his quest for the Republican presidential nomination when he issued a statement on Twitter.
“The Supreme Court decision today conveniently and not surprisingly follows public opinion polls, and tramples on states’ rights that were once protected by the 10th Amendment of the Constitution,” Jindal wrote. “Marriage between a man and a woman was established by God, and no earthly court can alter that. This decision will pave the way for an all out assault against the religious freedom rights of Christians who disagree with this decision. This ruling must not be used as pretext by Washington to erode our right to religious liberty. The government should not force those who have sincerely held religious beliefs about marriage to participate in these ceremonies. That would be a clear violation of America’s long held commitment to religious liberty as protected in the First Amendment. I will never stop fighting for religious liberty and I hope our leaders in D.C. join me.”
“GET RID OF THE COURT”
Speaking Friday morning in Urbandale, Iowa, Jindal called the Supreme Court “completely out of control, making laws on their own, and has become a public opinion poll instead of a judicial body.”
“If we want to save some money lets just get rid of the court. Yesterday, Justice Scalia noted that in the Obamacare ruling ‘words have no meaning,’” Jindal said, referring to the justice’s dissent to the opinion that upheld subsidies under the Affordable Care Act for people buying health insurance through federal rather than state-run exchanges. “Today, Chief Justice Roberts admitted that the gay marriage ruling had nothing to do with the Constitution. Marriage between a man and a woman was established by God, and no earthly court can alter that. Hillary Clinton and The left will now mount an all-out assault on Religious Freedom guaranteed in the First Amendment. Regardless of your views on marriage, all freedom loving people must pledge to respect our first amendment freedoms.”
Last month Jindal issued an order protecting people working in Louisiana’s executive branch from being punished due to views on same-sex marriage based on religion, after similar legislation failed to pass through a House committee.
The order does not apply to clerks of court or their employees. Clerks are constitutionally mandated officers in the state.
Both Robichaux and Rodrigue said they are ready to comply with the Supreme Court’s decision after the recommended period has passed. Neither has heard objections from employees.
“We don’t have a problem if the law says I can issue it to anybody, what the heck,” said Rodrigue, who has been in office for 23 years.
Kennedy was joined in his opinion by justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Stephen Breyer, Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan.
“Under the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment, no State shall “deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law,” Kennedy wrote. “The fundamental liberties protected by this Clause include most of the rights enumerated in the Bill of Rights. In addition these liberties extend to certain personal choices central to individual dignity and autonomy, including intimate choices that define personal identity and beliefs. The identification and protection of fundamental rights is an enduring part of the judicial duty to interpret the Constitution. That responsibility … requires courts to exercise reasoned judgment in identifying interests of the person so fundamental that the State must accord them its respect.”
The nature of injustice is that we may not always see it in our own times,” Kennedy wrote. “The generations that wrote and ratified the Bill of Rights and the Fourteenth Amendment did not
presume to know the extent of freedom in all of its dimensions, and so they entrusted to future generations a charter protecting the right of all persons to enjoy liberty as we learn its meaning.”
The dissents that were filed indicated not only a deep division between the justices, but numerous arguments in opposition to the majority opinion ranging from state rights to religious liberty questions.
Chief Justice John Roberts filed a dissenting opinion in which justices Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas joined. Scalia filed a separate dissent, joined by Thomas. Justice Samuel Alito filed a different dissenting opinion, joined by Scalia and Thomas. And Thomas filed his own dissent, joined by Scalia.
“Many people will rejoice at this decision, and I begrudge none their celebration,” the Chief Justice wrote in his dissent, providing a strong federalist view which in essence states the marriage issue is the business of legislatures, not the courts. “But for those who believe in a government of laws, not of men, the majority’s approach is deeply disheartening. Supporters of same-sex marriage have achieved considerable success persuading their fellow citizens—through the democratic process—to adopt their view. That ends today. Five lawyers have closed the debate and enacted their own vision of marriage as a matter of constitutional law. Stealing this issue from the people will for many cast a cloud over same-sex marriage, making a dramatic social change that much more difficult to accept.”
The Chief Justice wrote that the majority opinion was short on constitutional precedent, and that precedent used in the majority opinion was off-point on the issue of marriage.
Scalia’s dissent blasted the majority for usurping the rights of individual voters and states to govern the marriage definition.
“This practice of constitutional revision by an unelected committee of nine, always accompanied (as it is today) by extravagant praise of liberty, robs the People of the most important liberty they asserted in the Declaration of Independence and won in the Revolution of 1776: the freedom to govern themselves,” Scalia’s dissent states. “Until the courts put a stop to it, public debate over same-sex marriage displayed American democracy at its best. Individuals on both sides of the issue passionately, but respectfully, attempted to persuade their fellow citizens
to accept their views.”
CITING MAGNA CARTA
The bedrock of the majority decision, that the equal protection and due process clauses mandate recognition of same-sex marriage, was attacked full-on by Scalia.
“When the Fourteenth Amendment was ratified in 1868, every State limited marriage to one man and one woman, and no one doubted the constitutionality of doing so,” Scalia wrote. “That resolves these cases.”
The Thomas dissent invoked the Magna Carta, in a lengthy treatise on the difference between the court making a decision when liberty is at stake and when marriage – which he characterized as a “government entitlement” – is denied.
“Petitioners cannot claim, under the most plausible definition of “liberty,” that they have been imprisoned or physically restrained by the States for participating in same-sex relationships,” Thomas wrote. “To the contrary, they have been able to cohabitate and raise their children in peace. They have been able to hold civil marriage ceremonies in States that recognize same-sex marriages and private religious ceremonies in all States. They have been able to travel freely around the country, making their homes where they please.