throbber
(Slip Opinion)
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`
`
` OCTOBER TERM, 2014
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`
`Syllabus
`
`1
`
` NOTE: Where it is feasible, a syllabus (headnote) will be released, as is
`
`
`
` being done in connection with this case, at the time the opinion is issued.
`
`
`
` The syllabus constitutes no part of the opinion of the Court but has been
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` prepared by the Reporter of Decisions for the convenience of the reader.
`
` See United States v. Detroit Timber & Lumber Co., 200 U. S. 321, 337.
`
`
`SUPREME COURT OF THE UNITED STATES
`
`
`
` Syllabus
`
` OBERGEFELL ET AL. v. HODGES, DIRECTOR, OHIO
`
`
`
` DEPARTMENT OF HEALTH, ET AL.
`
`CERTIORARI TO THE UNITED STATES COURT OF APPEALS FOR
`
`THE SIXTH CIRCUIT
` No. 14–556. Argued April 28, 2015—Decided June 26, 2015*
`
`Michigan, Kentucky, Ohio, and Tennessee define marriage as a union
`
`between one man and one woman. The petitioners, 14 same-sex cou-
`ples and two men whose same-sex partners are deceased, filed suits
`in Federal District Courts in their home States, claiming that re-
`spondent state officials violate the Fourteenth Amendment by deny-
`ing them the right to marry or to have marriages lawfully performed
`in another State given full recognition. Each District Court ruled in
`petitioners’ favor, but the Sixth Circuit consolidated the cases and
`
`reversed.
`Held: The Fourteenth Amendment requires a State to license a mar-
`
`riage between two people of the same sex and to recognize a marriage
`between two people of the same sex when their marriage was lawful-
`
`ly licensed and performed out-of-State. Pp. 3–28.
`
`
`(a) Before turning to the governing principles and precedents, it is
`
`appropriate to note the history of the subject now before the Court.
`
`Pp. 3–10.
`
`
`
`(1) The history of marriage as a union between two persons of
`the opposite sex marks the beginning of these cases. To the respond-
`ents, it would demean a timeless institution if marriage were extend-
`ed to same-sex couples. But the petitioners, far from seeking to de-
`value marriage, seek it for themselves because of their respect—and
`need—for its privileges and responsibilities, as illustrated by the pe-
`——————
`
`
`
`*Together with No. 14–562, Tanco et al. v. Haslam, Governor of Ten-
`
`nessee, et al., No. 14–571, DeBoer et al. v. Snyder, Governor of Michigan,
`
`
`
`et al., and No. 14–574, Bourke et al. v. Beshear, Governor of Kentucky,
`
`
`also on certiorari to the same court.
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`

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`OBERGEFELL v. HODGES
`
`
`Syllabus
`
`titioners’ own experiences. Pp. 3–6.
`
`
`(2) The history of marriage is one of both continuity and change.
`Changes, such as the decline of arranged marriages and the aban-
`donment of the law of coverture, have worked deep transformations
`in the structure of marriage, affecting aspects of marriage once
`viewed as essential. These new insights have strengthened, not
`weakened, the institution. Changed understandings of marriage are
`characteristic of a Nation where new dimensions of freedom become
`
`apparent to new generations.
`
`This dynamic can be seen in the Nation’s experience with gay and
`lesbian rights. Well into the 20th century, many States condemned
`
`same-sex intimacy as immoral, and homosexuality was treated as an
`illness. Later in the century, cultural and political developments al-
`lowed same-sex couples to lead more open and public lives. Extensive
`public and private dialogue followed, along with shifts in public atti-
`tudes. Questions about the legal treatment of gays and lesbians soon
`reached the courts, where they could be discussed in the formal dis-
`
`course of the law. In 2003, this Court overruled its 1986 decision in
`Bowers v. Hardwick, 478 U. S. 186, which upheld a Georgia law that
`criminalized certain homosexual acts, concluding laws making same-
`sex intimacy a crime “demea[n] the lives of homosexual persons.”
`
`Lawrence v. Texas, 539 U. S. 558, 575. In 2012, the federal Defense
`
`
`of Marriage Act was also struck down. United States v. Windsor, 570
`
`U. S. ___. Numerous same-sex marriage cases reaching the federal
`courts and state supreme courts have added to the dialogue. Pp. 6–
`
`10.
`
`(b) The Fourteenth Amendment requires a State to license a mar-
`
`
`riage between two people of the same sex. Pp. 10–27.
`(1) The fundamental liberties protected by the Fourteenth
`Amendment’s Due Process Clause extend to certain personal choices
`central to individual dignity and autonomy, including intimate choic-
`
`es defining personal identity and beliefs. See, e.g., Eisenstadt v.
`Baird, 405 U. S. 438, 453; Griswold v. Connecticut, 381 U. S. 479,
`484–486. Courts must exercise reasoned judgment in identifying in-
`terests of the person so fundamental that the State must accord them
`
`its respect. History and tradition guide and discipline the inquiry
`but do not set its outer boundaries. When new insight reveals dis-
`cord between the Constitution’s central protections and a received le-
`
`gal stricture, a claim to liberty must be addressed.
`
`Applying these tenets, the Court has long held the right to marry is
`protected by the Constitution. For example, Loving v. Virginia, 388
`U. S. 1, 12, invalidated bans on interracial unions, and Turner v.
`
`Safley, 482 U. S. 78, 95, held that prisoners could not be denied the
`right to marry. To be sure, these cases presumed a relationship in-
`
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`2
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`

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`
`Cite as: 576 U. S. ____ (2015)
`
`
`Syllabus
`
`
`volving opposite-sex partners, as did Baker v. Nelson, 409 U. S. 810, a
`one-line summary decision issued in 1972, holding that the exclusion
`of same-sex couples from marriage did not present a substantial fed-
`eral question. But other, more instructive precedents have expressed
`
`
`broader principles. See, e.g., Lawrence, supra, at 574. In assessing
`whether the force and rationale of its cases apply to same-sex cou-
`ples, the Court must respect the basic reasons why the right to marry
`
`
`has been long protected. See, e.g., Eisenstadt, supra, at 453–454.
`This analysis compels the conclusion that same-sex couples may ex-
`
`ercise the right to marry. Pp. 10–12.
`
`
`
`(2) Four principles and traditions demonstrate that the rea-
`sons marriage is fundamental under the Constitution apply with
`equal force to same-sex couples. The first premise of this Court’s rel-
`evant precedents is that the right to personal choice regarding mar-
`riage is inherent in the concept of individual autonomy. This abiding
`
`connection between marriage and liberty is why Loving invalidated
`interracial marriage bans under the Due Process Clause. See 388
`U. S., at 12. Decisions about marriage are among the most intimate
`that an individual can make. See Lawrence, supra, at 574. This is
`true for all persons, whatever their sexual orientation.
`
`
`A second principle in this Court’s jurisprudence is that the right to
`marry is fundamental because it supports a two-person union unlike
`any other in its importance to the committed individuals. The inti-
`mate association protected by this right was central to Griswold v.
`
`Connecticut, which held the Constitution protects the right of mar-
`ried couples to use contraception, 381 U. S., at 485, and was acknowl-
`edged in Turner, supra, at 95. Same-sex couples have the same right
`as opposite-sex couples to enjoy intimate association, a right extend-
`ing beyond mere freedom from laws making same-sex intimacy a
`
`
`criminal offense. See Lawrence, supra, at 567.
`
`
`A third basis for protecting the right to marry is that it safeguards
`children and families and thus draws meaning from related rights of
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`childrearing, procreation, and education. See, e.g., Pierce v. Society of
`Sisters, 268 U. S. 510. Without the recognition, stability, and pre-
`
`dictability marriage offers, children suffer the stigma of knowing
`
`their families are somehow lesser. They also suffer the significant
`
`material costs of being raised by unmarried parents, relegated to a
`more difficult and uncertain family life. The marriage laws at issue
`thus harm and humiliate the children of same-sex couples. See
`Windsor, supra, at ___. This does not mean that the right to marry is
`less meaningful for those who do not or cannot have children. Prece-
`dent protects the right of a married couple not to procreate, so the
`right to marry cannot be conditioned on the capacity or commitment
`to procreate.
`
`
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`
`3
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`

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`OBERGEFELL v. HODGES
`
`
`Syllabus
`
`Finally, this Court’s cases and the Nation’s traditions make clear
`that marriage is a keystone of the Nation’s social order. See
`Maynard v. Hill, 125 U. S. 190, 211. States have contributed to the
`
`fundamental character of marriage by placing it at the center of
`
`many facets of the legal and social order. There is no difference be-
`tween same- and opposite-sex couples with respect to this principle,
`yet same-sex couples are denied the constellation of benefits that the
`States have linked to marriage and are consigned to an instability
`many opposite-sex couples would find intolerable. It is demeaning to
`
`lock same-sex couples out of a central institution of the Nation’s soci-
`ety, for they too may aspire to the transcendent purposes of marriage.
`
`The limitation of marriage to opposite-sex couples may long have
`
`seemed natural and just, but its inconsistency with the central mean-
`ing of the fundamental right to marry is now manifest. Pp. 12–18.
`
`
`
`(3) The right of same-sex couples to marry is also derived from
`the Fourteenth Amendment’s guarantee of equal protection. The Due
`Process Clause and the Equal Protection Clause are connected in a
`profound way. Rights implicit in liberty and rights secured by equal
`protection may rest on different precepts and are not always co-
`extensive, yet each may be instructive as to the meaning and reach of
`the other. This dynamic is reflected in Loving, where the Court in-
`
`voked both the Equal Protection Clause and the Due Process Clause;
`
`and in Zablocki v. Redhail, 434 U. S. 374, where the Court invalidat-
`ed a law barring fathers delinquent on child-support payments from
`marrying. Indeed, recognizing that new insights and societal under-
`standings can reveal unjustified inequality within fundamental insti-
`tutions that once passed unnoticed and unchallenged, this Court has
`invoked equal protection principles to invalidate laws imposing sex-
`
`based inequality on marriage, see, e.g., Kirchberg v. Feenstra, 450
`U. S. 455, 460–461, and confirmed the relation between liberty and
`
`equality, see, e.g., M. L. B. v. S. L. J., 519 U. S. 102, 120–121.
`
`The Court has acknowledged the interlocking nature of these con-
`
`stitutional safeguards in the context of the legal treatment of gays
`
`and lesbians. See Lawrence, 539 U. S., at 575. This dynamic also
`applies to same-sex marriage. The challenged laws burden the liber-
`
`ty of same-sex couples, and they abridge central precepts of equality.
`
`The marriage laws at issue are in essence unequal: Same-sex couples
`are denied benefits afforded opposite-sex couples and are barred from
`exercising a fundamental right. Especially against a long history of
`disapproval of their relationships, this denial works a grave and con-
`tinuing harm, serving to disrespect and subordinate gays and lesbi-
`ans. Pp. 18–22.
`
`
`
`(4) The right to marry is a fundamental right inherent in the
`liberty of the person, and under the Due Process and Equal Protec-
`
`
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`4
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`

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`Cite as: 576 U. S. ____ (2015)
`
`
`Syllabus
`
`tion Clauses of the Fourteenth Amendment couples of the same-sex
`may not be deprived of that right and that liberty. Same-sex couples
`may exercise the fundamental right to marry. Baker v. Nelson is
`
`
`overruled. The State laws challenged by the petitioners in these cas-
`es are held invalid to the extent they exclude same-sex couples from
`civil marriage on the same terms and conditions as opposite-sex cou-
`ples. Pp. 22–23.
`(5) There may be an initial inclination to await further legisla-
`
`
`tion, litigation, and debate, but referenda, legislative debates, and
`grassroots campaigns; studies and other writings; and extensive liti-
`gation in state and federal courts have led to an enhanced under-
`standing of the issue. While the Constitution contemplates that de-
`mocracy is the appropriate process for change, individuals who are
`harmed need not await legislative action before asserting a funda-
`mental right. Bowers, in effect, upheld state action that denied gays
`and lesbians a fundamental right. Though it was eventually repudi-
`ated, men and women suffered pain and humiliation in the interim,
`
`and the effects of these injuries no doubt lingered long after Bowers
`
`was overruled. A ruling against same-sex couples would have the
`
`same effect and would be unjustified under the Fourteenth Amend-
`ment. The petitioners’ stories show the urgency of the issue they
`
`present to the Court, which has a duty to address these claims and
`answer these questions. Respondents’ argument that allowing same-
`sex couples to wed will harm marriage as an institution rests on a
`counterintuitive view of opposite-sex couples’ decisions about mar-
`riage and parenthood. Finally, the First Amendment ensures that
`
`religions, those who adhere to religious doctrines, and others have
`
`
`protection as they seek to teach the principles that are so fulfilling
`
`and so central to their lives and faiths. Pp. 23–27.
`
`(c) The Fourteenth Amendment requires States to recognize same-
`sex marriages validly performed out of State. Since same-sex couples
`may now exercise the fundamental right to marry in all States, there
`
`is no lawful basis for a State to refuse to recognize a lawful same-sex
`marriage performed in another State on the ground of its same-sex
`character. Pp. 27–28.
`772 F. 3d 388, reversed.
`KENNEDY, J., delivered the opinion of the Court, in which GINSBURG,
`BREYER, SOTOMAYOR, and KAGAN, JJ., joined. ROBERTS, C. J., filed a
`dissenting opinion, in which SCALIA and THOMAS, JJ., joined. SCALIA,
`J., filed a dissenting opinion, in which THOMAS, J., joined. THOMAS, J.,
`filed a dissenting opinion, in which SCALIA, J., joined. ALITO, J., filed a
`
`
`
` dissenting opinion, in which SCALIA and THOMAS, JJ., joined.
`
`
`
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`5
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`

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` Cite as: 576 U. S. ____ (2015)
`
`Opinion of the Court
`
`1
`
`
` NOTICE: This opinion is subject to formal revision before publication in the
`
`
`
` preliminary print of the United States Reports. Readers are requested to
`
` notify the Reporter of Decisions, Supreme Court of the United States, Wash-
`
` ington, D. C. 20543, of any typographical or other formal errors, in order
`
`
` that corrections may be made before the preliminary print goes to press.
`
`
`
`
`SUPREME COURT OF THE UNITED STATES
`
`
`
`_________________
` Nos. 14–556, 14-562, 14-571 and 14–574
`_________________
`
` JAMES OBERGEFELL, ET AL., PETITIONERS
`
`14–556
` v.
`RICHARD HODGES, DIRECTOR, OHIO
`
` DEPARTMENT OF HEALTH, ET AL.;
`
`
`
`
`
`VALERIA TANCO, ET AL., PETITIONERS
`v.
`BILL HASLAM, GOVERNOR OF
`
`TENNESSEE, ET AL.;
`
`
`
`
`
`14–562
`
`
`
`APRIL DEBOER, ET AL., PETITIONERS
`
`14–571
`
`v.
`RICK SNYDER, GOVERNOR OF MICHIGAN,
`ET AL.; AND
`
`
`
`
`GREGORY BOURKE, ET AL., PETITIONERS
`
`14–574
`
`v.
`STEVE BESHEAR, GOVERNOR OF
`KENTUCKY
`
`ON WRITS OF CERTIORARI TO THE UNITED STATES COURT OF
`
`APPEALS FOR THE SIXTH CIRCUIT
`[June 26, 2015]
` JUSTICE KENNEDY delivered the opinion of the Court.
`The Constitution promises liberty to all within its reach,
`
`
`a liberty that includes certain specific rights that allow
`
`

`
`2
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`
` OBERGEFELL v. HODGES
`
`Opinion of the Court
`persons, within a lawful realm, to define and express their
`identity. The petitioners in these cases seek to find that
`liberty by marrying someone of the same sex and having
`their marriages deemed lawful on the same terms and
`conditions as marriages between persons of the opposite
`sex.
`
`
`
`I
`These cases come from Michigan, Kentucky, Ohio, and
`
`Tennessee, States that define marriage as a union be-
`tween one man and one woman. See, e.g., Mich. Const.,
`Art. I, §25; Ky. Const. §233A; Ohio Rev. Code Ann.
`§3101.01 (Lexis 2008); Tenn. Const., Art. XI, §18. The
`petitioners are 14 same-sex couples and two men whose
`same-sex partners are deceased. The respondents are
`state officials responsible for enforcing the laws in ques-
`tion. The petitioners claim the respondents violate the
`Fourteenth Amendment by denying them the right to
`marry or to have their marriages, lawfully performed in
`another State, given full recognition.
`Petitioners filed these suits in United States District
`
`Courts in their home States. Each District Court ruled in
`their favor. Citations to those cases are in Appendix A,
`infra. The respondents appealed the decisions against
`them to the United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth
`Circuit. It consolidated the cases and reversed the judg-
`ments of the District Courts. DeBoer v. Snyder, 772 F. 3d
`388 (2014). The Court of Appeals held that a State has no
`constitutional obligation to license same-sex marriages or
`to recognize same-sex marriages performed out of State.
`The petitioners sought certiorari. This Court granted
`
`
`review, limited to two questions. 574 U. S. ___ (2015).
`The first, presented by the cases from Michigan and Ken-
`tucky, is whether the Fourteenth Amendment requires a
`State to license a marriage between two people of the
`same sex. The second, presented by the cases from Ohio,
`
`
`
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`

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`
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`
`
` Cite as: 576 U. S. ____ (2015)
`
`Opinion of the Court
`Tennessee, and, again, Kentucky, is whether the Four-
`teenth Amendment requires a State to recognize a same-
`
`sex marriage licensed and performed in a State which does
`grant that right.
`
`3
`
`
`II
`Before addressing the principles and precedents that
`
`govern these cases, it is appropriate to note the history of
`
`the subject now before the Court.
`A
`
`From their beginning to their most recent page, the
`annals of human history reveal the transcendent im-
`portance of marriage. The lifelong union of a man and a
`woman always has promised nobility and dignity to all
`persons, without regard to their station in life. Marriage
`is sacred to those who live by their religions and offers
`unique fulfillment to those who find meaning in the secu-
`lar realm. Its dynamic allows two people to find a life that
`could not be found alone, for a marriage becomes greater
`than just the two persons. Rising from the most basic
`human needs, marriage is essential to our most profound
`hopes and aspirations.
`
`
`The centrality of marriage to the human condition
`makes it unsurprising that the institution has existed for
`
`millennia and across civilizations. Since the dawn of
`history, marriage has transformed strangers into rela-
`
`tives, binding families and societies together. Confucius
`
`taught that marriage lies at the foundation of government.
`2 Li Chi: Book of Rites 266 (C. Chai & W. Chai eds., J.
`
`Legge transl. 1967). This wisdom was echoed centuries
`later and half a world away by Cicero, who wrote, “The
`first bond of society is marriage; next, children; and then
`the family.” See De Officiis 57 (W. Miller transl. 1913).
`There are untold references to the beauty of marriage in
`religious and philosophical texts spanning time, cultures,
`
`
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`

`
`4
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`
` OBERGEFELL v. HODGES
`
`Opinion of the Court
`and faiths, as well as in art and literature in all their
`forms. It is fair and necessary to say these references
`
`were based on the understanding that marriage is a union
`between two persons of the opposite sex.
`
`That history is the beginning of these cases. The re-
`spondents say it should be the end as well. To them, it
`would demean a timeless institution if the concept and
`lawful status of marriage were extended to two persons of
`the same sex. Marriage, in their view, is by its nature a
`
`gender-differentiated union of man and woman. This view
`
`long has been held—and continues to be held—in good
`faith by reasonable and sincere people here and through-
`out the world.
`
`The petitioners acknowledge this history but contend
`that these cases cannot end there. Were their intent to
`demean the revered idea and reality of marriage, the
`petitioners’ claims would be of a different order. But that
`is neither their purpose nor their submission. To the
`contrary, it is the enduring importance of marriage that
`underlies the petitioners’ contentions. This, they say, is
`their whole point. Far from seeking to devalue marriage,
`the petitioners seek it for themselves because of their
`
`respect—and need—for its privileges and responsibilities.
`And their immutable nature dictates that same-sex mar-
`riage is their only real path to this profound commitment.
`
`Recounting the circumstances of three of these cases
`illustrates the urgency of the petitioners’ cause from their
`perspective. Petitioner James Obergefell, a plaintiff in the
`Ohio case, met John Arthur over two decades ago. They
`fell in love and started a life together, establishing a last-
`ing, committed relation. In 2011, however, Arthur was
`
`diagnosed with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, or ALS.
`This debilitating disease is progressive, with no known
`cure. Two years ago, Obergefell and Arthur decided to
`commit to one another, resolving to marry before Arthur
`died. To fulfill their mutual promise, they traveled from
`
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`

`
`5
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` Cite as: 576 U. S. ____ (2015)
`
`Opinion of the Court
`Ohio to Maryland, where same-sex marriage was legal. It
`was difficult for Arthur to move, and so the couple were
`wed inside a medical transport plane as it remained on the
`tarmac in Baltimore. Three months later, Arthur died.
`Ohio law does not permit Obergefell to be listed as the
`surviving spouse on Arthur’s death certificate. By statute,
`they must remain strangers even in death, a state-
`imposed separation Obergefell deems “hurtful for the rest
`of time.” App. in No. 14–556 etc., p. 38. He brought suit
`to be shown as the surviving spouse on Arthur’s death
`
`certificate.
`
`April DeBoer and Jayne Rowse are co-plaintiffs in the
`case from Michigan. They celebrated a commitment cere-
`mony to honor their permanent relation in 2007. They
`both work as nurses, DeBoer in a neonatal unit and Rowse
`in an emergency unit. In 2009, DeBoer and Rowse fos-
`tered and then adopted a baby boy. Later that same year,
`they welcomed another son into their family. The new
`baby, born prematurely and abandoned by his biological
`mother, required around-the-clock care. The next year, a
`baby girl with special needs joined their family. Michigan,
`however, permits only opposite-sex married couples or
`single individuals to adopt, so each child can have only one
`woman as his or her legal parent. If an emergency were to
`arise, schools and hospitals may treat the three children
`
`as if they had only one parent. And, were tragedy to befall
`either DeBoer or Rowse, the other would have no legal
`rights over the children she had not been permitted to
`adopt. This couple seeks relief from the continuing uncer-
`tainty their unmarried status creates in their lives.
`
`Army Reserve Sergeant First Class Ijpe DeKoe and his
`partner Thomas Kostura, co-plaintiffs in the Tennessee
`case, fell in love. In 2011, DeKoe received orders to deploy
`to Afghanistan. Before leaving, he and Kostura married
`in New York. A week later, DeKoe began his deployment,
`which lasted for almost a year. When he returned, the two
`
`
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`

`
`6
`
`
`
`
` OBERGEFELL v. HODGES
`
`Opinion of the Court
`settled in Tennessee, where DeKoe works full-time for the
`Army Reserve. Their lawful marriage is stripped from
`them whenever they reside in Tennessee, returning and
`disappearing as they travel across state lines. DeKoe, who
`served this Nation to preserve the freedom the Constitu-
`tion protects, must endure a substantial burden.
`The cases now before the Court involve other petitioners
`
`as well, each with their own experiences. Their stories
`reveal that they seek not to denigrate marriage but rather
`to live their lives, or honor their spouses’ memory, joined
`by its bond.
`
`
`
`
`
`B
`The ancient origins of marriage confirm its centrality,
`
`but it has not stood in isolation from developments in law
`and society. The history of marriage is one of both conti-
`nuity and change. That institution—even as confined to
`opposite-sex relations—has evolved over time.
`For example, marriage was once viewed as an arrange-
`
`ment by the couple’s parents based on political, religious,
`and financial concerns; but by the time of the Nation’s
`founding it was understood to be a voluntary contract
`
` between a man and a woman. See N. Cott, Public Vows: A
`History of Marriage and the Nation 9–17 (2000); S.
`Coontz, Marriage, A History 15–16 (2005). As the role and
`
`status of women changed, the institution further evolved.
`Under the centuries-old doctrine of coverture, a married
`man and woman were treated by the State as a single,
`male-dominated legal entity. See 1 W. Blackstone, Com-
`mentaries on the Laws of England 430 (1765). As women
`gained legal, political, and property rights, and as society
`began to understand that women have their own equal
`
`
`dignity, the law of coverture was abandoned. See Brief for
`
`Historians of Marriage et al. as Amici Curiae 16–19. These
`
`and other developments in the institution of marriage over
`the past centuries were not mere superficial changes.
`
`
`
`

`
`
`
` Cite as: 576 U. S. ____ (2015)
`
`Opinion of the Court
`Rather, they worked deep transformations in its structure,
`affecting aspects of marriage long viewed by many as essen-
`tial. See generally N. Cott, Public Vows; S. Coontz, Mar-
`riage; H. Hartog, Man & Wife in America: A History (2000).
`
`These new insights have strengthened, not weakened,
`
`the institution of marriage. Indeed, changed understand-
`ings of marriage are characteristic of a Nation where new
`dimensions of freedom become apparent to new genera-
`tions, often through perspectives that begin in pleas or
`
`protests and then are considered in the political sphere
`and the judicial process.
`This dynamic can be seen in the Nation’s experiences
`
`with the rights of gays and lesbians. Until the mid-20th
`century, same-sex intimacy long had been condemned as
`immoral by the state itself in most Western nations, a
`belief often embodied in the criminal law. For this reason,
`among others, many persons did not deem homosexuals to
`have dignity in their own distinct identity. A truthful
`declaration by same-sex couples of what was in their
`hearts had to remain unspoken. Even when a greater
`awareness of the humanity and integrity of homosexual
`persons came in the period after World War II, the argu-
`ment that gays and lesbians had a just claim to dignity
`was in conflict with both law and widespread social con-
`ventions. Same-sex intimacy remained a crime in many
`States. Gays and lesbians were prohibited from most
`government employment, barred from military service,
`excluded under immigration laws, targeted by police, and
`burdened in their rights to associate. See Brief for Organ-
`ization of American Historians as Amicus Curiae 5–28.
`For much of the 20th century, moreover, homosexuality
`
`was treated as an illness. When the American Psychiatric
`Association published the first Diagnostic and Statistical
`Manual of Mental Disorders in 1952, homosexuality was
`
`
`classified as a mental disorder, a position adhered to until
`
`1973. See Position Statement on Homosexuality and Civil
`
`
`
`
`
`
`
`7
`
`

`
`
`
` OBERGEFELL v. HODGES
`
`Opinion of the Court
` Rights, 1973, in 131 Am. J. Psychiatry 497 (1974). Only in
`
`
`
`more recent years have psychiatrists and others recog-
`nized that sexual orientation is both a normal expression
`of human sexuality and immutable. See Brief for Ameri-
`can Psychological Association et al. as Amici Curiae 7–17.
`
`In the late 20th century, following substantial cultural
`
`and political developments, same-sex couples began to
`lead more open and public lives and to establish families.
`This development was followed by a quite extensive dis-
`cussion of the issue in both governmental and private
`sectors and by a shift in public attitudes toward greater
`
`tolerance. As a result, questions about the rights of gays
`
`
`and lesbians soon reached the courts, where the issue
`could be discussed in the formal discourse of the law.
`This Court first gave detailed consideration to the legal
`
`status of homosexuals in Bowers v. Hardwick, 478 U. S.
`186 (1986). There it upheld the constitutionality of a
`Georgia law deemed to criminalize certain homosexual
`acts. Ten years later, in Romer v. Evans, 517 U. S. 620
`(1996), the Court invalidated an amendment to Colorado’s
`Constitution that sought to foreclose any branch or politi-
`cal subdivision of the State from protecting persons
`against discrimination based on sexual orientation. Then,
`in 2003, the Court overruled Bowers, holding that laws
`making same-sex intimacy a crime “demea[n] the lives of
`homosexual persons.” Lawrence v. Texas, 539 U. S. 558,
`575.
`
`Against this background, the legal question of same-sex
`marriage arose. In 1993, the Hawaii Supreme Court held
`Hawaii’s law restricting marriage to opposite-sex couples
`constituted a classification on the basis of sex and was
`therefore subject to strict scrutiny under the Hawaii Con-
`stitution. Baehr v. Lewin, 74 Haw. 530, 852 P. 2d 44.
`Although this decision did not mandate that same-sex
`marriage be allowed, some States were concerned by its
`
`implications and reaffirmed in their laws that marriage is
`
`
`
`
`
`8
`
`
`
`
`
`
`

`
`9
`
`
`
`
`
`
`
` Cite as: 576 U. S. ____ (2015)
`
`Opinion of the Court
`defined as a union between opposite-sex partners. So too
`in 1996, Congress passed the Defense of Marriage Act
`(DOMA), 110 Stat. 2419, defining marriage for all federal-
`law purposes as “only a legal union between one man and
`one woman as husband and wife.” 1 U. S. C. §7.
`
`The new and widespread discussion of the subject led
`other States to a different conclusion. In 2003, the Su-
`preme Judicial Court of Massachusetts held the State’s
`
`Constitution guaranteed same-sex couples the right to
`
`marry. See Goodridge v. Department of Public Health, 440
`Mass. 309, 798 N. E. 2d 941 (2003). After that ruling,
`some additional States granted marriage rights to same-
`sex couples, either through judicial or legislative proc-
`esses. These decisions and statutes are cited in Appendix B,
`
`infra. Two Terms ago, in United States v. Windsor, 570
`U. S. ___ (2013), this Court invalidated DOMA to the
`extent it barred the Federal Government from treating
`same-sex marriages as valid even when they were lawful
`in the State where they were licensed. DOMA, the Court
`held, impermissibly disparaged those same-sex couples
`“who wanted to affirm their commitment to one another
`before their children, their family, their friends, and their
`community.” Id., at ___ (slip op., at 14).
`Numerous cases about same-sex marriage have reached
`
`the United States Courts of Appeals in recent years. In
`accordance with the judicial duty to base their decisions on
`principled reasons and neutral discussions, without scorn-
`ful or disparaging commentary, courts have written a
`substantial body of law considering all sides of these is-
`
`sues. That case law helps to explain and formulate the
`underlying principles this Court now must consider. With
`the exception of the opinion here under review and one
`
`other, see Citizens for Equal Protection v. Bruning, 455
`F. 3d 859, 864–868 (CA8 2006), the Courts of Appeals
`have held that excluding same-sex couples from marriage
`violates the Constitution. There also have been many
`
`
`
`
`
`

`
`
`
` OBERGEFELL v. HODGES
`
`Opinion of the Court
`thoughtful District Court decisions addressing same-sex
`marriage—and most of them, too, have concluded same-
`sex couples must be allowed to marry. In addition the
`highest courts of many States have contributed to this
`ongoing dialogue in decisions interpreting their own State
`Constitutions. These state and federal judicial opinions
`are cited in Appendix A, infra.
`
`After years of litigation, legislation, referenda, and the
`
`discussions that attended these public acts, the States are
`now divided on the issue of same-sex marriage. See Office
`of the Atty. Gen. of Maryland, The State of Marriage
`Equality in America, State-by-State Supp. (2015).
`
`III
`
`Under the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth
`Amendment, no State shall “deprive any person of life,
`liberty, or property

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