The U.S. Supreme Court ruled June 26 that same-sex marriage bans are unconstitutional, legalizing same-sex marriage nationwide. The court released its decision in Obergefell v. Hodges, a set of cases challenging same-sex marriage bans in Ohio, Kentucky, Michigan and Tennessee.
“The Fourteenth Amendment requires a State to license a marriage between two people of the same sex and to recognize a marriage between two people of the same sex when their marriage was lawfully licensed and performed out of state,” the 5-4 majority decision penned by Justice Anthony Kennedy reads. “It is now clear that the challenged laws burden the liberty of same-sex couples, and it must be further acknowledged that they abridge central precepts of equality,” the decision later states.
The Supreme Court showdown arose from an earlier decision released by the U.S. Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals here in Cincinnati. That court upheld the same-sex marriage bans in Ohio, Kentucky, Michigan and Tennessee.
The decision put the Sixth Circuit at odds with other federal circuit courts, which had struck down marriage bans in other states. Lawyers for the plaintiffs appealed, bringing the case to the nation’s highest court.
The Supreme Court case Obergefell v. Hodges gets its name from Jim Obergefell, one of the plaintiffs, who hails from Cincinnati. Obergefell sued Ohio for the right to be recognized on his husband John Arthur’s death certificate in Ohio after the two were married in Maryland in 2013. Arthur, who had Lou Gehrig’s Disease, died soon after.
Richard Hodges, the director of the Ohio Department of Health, is the named defendant. Cincinnatians Brittani Henry-Rogers and Brittni Rogers are also among the plaintiffs. They’re fighting to both be listed on their son Jayseon’s birth certificate.
“It is really just knowing my marriage, my 20-year relationship with John — Ohio can never erase that now,” Obergefell told reporters in Washington after the decision. “And that’s a very good feeling.”
Marriage licenses will be available in Ohio counties immediately. In Hamilton County, couples can obtain them from the Hamilton County Probate Court downtown, among other locations.
The First Unitarian Church of Cincinnati has announced that Rev. Sharon Dittmar will be performing same-sex marriages to couples with marriage licenses free of charge June 30-July 2 at the Hamilton County Courthouse or at the First Unitarian Church in Avondale. You can reach the church at 513-281-4697.
Following the ruling, thousands swarmed downtown for Cincinnati’s June 27 Pride Parade, a previously planned annual event celebrating the LGBT community.
The atmosphere was mostly triumphant, but a dozen or so marchers protested the ruling in the parade, carrying signs referencing eternal damnation and calling gays and lesbians “sinners.”
Conservative groups like Greater Cincinnati-based Citizens for Community Values and the Ohio Christian Alliance have also voiced their opposition to the ruling. The latter group released a statement June 26 warning that the country is “heading into a moral unknown” and that states’ rights are being trampled by the ruling.
“The supporters of homosexual marriage accomplished their desired goal through the courts, something they could not accomplish through the ballot box of democracy, because the majority of Americans believe that a marriage is between one man and one woman,” a release from the group said, citing the 2004 Ohio constitutional amendment the Supreme Court struck down.
“The radical Left has once again used the courts to advance their agenda,” the statement said, “leaving many to question ‘where do states’ rights begin and end?’ ”
More recent polls, however, seem to show that Americans, including Ohioans, have changed their views on same-sex marriage. A 2014 Quinnipiac University poll found that 50 percent of the state supported legalizing same-sex marriage, up several points from years prior.
Opponents of lifting Ohio’s ban, including Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine, argued that popular opinion was on their side, and that the democratic process should be used to lift the ban if it were going to be eliminated.
The Supreme Court’s decision could have big impacts beyond the cultural dimension. Some economists expect that newly legal same-sex marriage will pump millions of dollars in economic activity into Ohio. Nearly 10,000 same-sex couples are expected to marry over the next three years — half of the state’s total number of same-sex couples — according to a study by economic researchers Regionomics LLC. That could bring an extra $127 million to the state’s economy, creating 930 new jobs in the first year.
And that’s just the money spent on the weddings. Other factors weren’t accounted for, including the benefit of keeping young people in the state who won’t have to leave to marry their partners.
Pro-marriage equality group Freedom to Marry commissioned the report. The study estimates that about 1,000 same-sex couples in Hamilton County will marry over the next three years, bringing in about $8 million in economic activity. ©