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Understanding Obergefell v. Hodges

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April 27, 2015

Tomorrow, the Supreme Court will be hearing oral arguments for Obergefell v. Hodges, a pivotal case addressing same-sex marriage. In preparation for tomorrow’s oral arguments. I wanted to share some facts surrounding the case.  The case relates to the states of Ohio, Kentucky, Michigan, and Tennessee where same-sex couples have sued the state for refusing to recognize legal marriages in other states.


  • Obergefell v. Hodges involves James Obergefell and John Arthur James from Ohio.

  • John James Arthur was diagnosed with ALS in 2011

  • They were married in the state of Maryland on July 11, 2013. Same-sex marriage is illegal in Ohio,

  • They wanted Obergefell to be named as James’ surviving spouse on his death certificate.

  • The couple was issued a temporary  order to recognize their marriage on Arthur’s death certificate in the state of Ohio

  • Arthur passed away on October 22, 2013, before court proceedings began.

  • The plaintiffs of the case have argued that refusing to legally recognize marriages performed in other states  and banning same-sex marriage violated the Equal Protection Clause and the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment.

  • On January 16, 2014, the Attorney General of Ohio filed an appeal to reverse the decision of U.S. District Judge Court Timothy Black. He ordered Ohio to recognize the marriage of same-sex spouses in relationship to the issuing of death certificates.

  • The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit reversed the decision. They found that the couple’s Fourteenth Amendment rights had not in fact been violated

  • The U.S. Supreme Court will be reviewing the decision of the The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit.

  • The case will begin hearing oral arguments tomorrow.

  • The goal is to have their Maryland marriage license recognized in the state of Ohio.

  • The two big constitutional questions in the case are: ” 1) Does the Fourteenth Amendment require a state to license a marriage between two people of the same sex? 2) Does the Fourteenth Amendment require a state to recognize a marriage between two people of the same sex when their marriage was lawfully licensed and performed out-of-state?” – SCOTUS Blog

It is expected that the Supreme Court will answer these constitutional questions by June of 2015. The results of this case will be crucial to the marriage equality movement. This case will set a precedent for future court proceedings regarding same-sex marriage in other states as well.

Furthermore, the case will address the importance of recognizing same-sex marriage in public documents. In a country all about documentation and proof, documents like marriage liscences and death certificates translate in to money, benefits for families, as well as a recognition of people’s marriages. The outcome of the case will either bring us closer to marriage equality or take us a step back.

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