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Obergefell v Hodges [2015]

Obergefell v Hodges [2015] 576 US 644 is a landmark Supreme Court case in US constitutional law that was decided in 2015. This case addressed the constitutionality of state bans on same-sex marriage and established marriage equality as the law of the land in the United States.

Before the Obergefell case, there was a patchwork of state laws regarding same-sex marriage in the United States. Some states allowed same-sex marriage, while others had constitutional amendments or statutes prohibiting it. The case arose from a consolidation of several lawsuits from four states: Ohio, Michigan, Kentucky, and Tennessee. The plaintiffs in these cases sought the right to marry or to have their out-of-state marriages recognised in their home states.

The central issue in Obergefell v Hodges was whether state laws that banned same-sex marriage and refused to recognise same-sex marriages performed in other states violated the Equal Protection Clause and Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment to the US Constitution.

The plaintiffs argued that these state laws denied them equal protection under the law and violated their fundamental right to marry, while the states defending the bans argued that marriage was traditionally understood as between a man and a woman and that states had the authority to define marriage.

In a historic 5-4 decision authored by Justice Anthony Kennedy, the Supreme Court ruled in favour of the plaintiffs, holding that same-sex marriage bans were unconstitutional. The Court found that the fundamental right to marry extended to same-sex couples and that states could not deny them the legal benefits and recognition that opposite-sex couples enjoyed.

Justice Kennedy's majority opinion emphasised the importance of marriage to same-sex couples and their families, stating that "No union is more profound than marriage, for it embodies the highest ideals of love, fidelity, devotion, sacrifice, and family." The decision was hailed as a significant victory for LGBTQ+ rights and marriage equality.

The Obergefell decision effectively legalised same-sex marriage throughout the United States, and it required states to recognise same-sex marriages performed in other states. It marked a significant step forward in the recognition of LGBTQ+ rights and equal protection under the law and had a profound impact on the lives of same-sex couples and their families across the country.

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