Supreme Court cases on same-sex marriage

The court has bundled appeals of lower court rulings about the laws of Michigan, Ohio, Kentucky and Tennessee under the title of the Ohio case, Obergefell v. Hodges. That case arose after the October 2013 death of John Arthur of Cincinnati. He and his longtime partner, James Obergefell, had married earlier that year in Maryland. When the local Ohio registrar agreed to list Obergefell as the surviving spouse on Arthur's death certificate — which is key to a range of survivor's benefits — the state attorney general challenged the status because Ohio law bars same-sex marriages.

Tanco v. Haslam, the Tennessee case, and Bourke v. Beshear, the Kentucky case, similarly challenge those states' refusal to recognize same-sex marriages performed in other jurisdictions. DeBoer v. Snyder, the Michigan case, does so based on a lesbian couple's efforts to jointly adopt their children. Michigan law limits adoption by a second parent to married couples and the state does not allow or recognize same-sex marriages.

The Supreme Court ruled in 2013 that the federal Defense of Marriage Act, which defined marriage as between one man and one woman, is unconstitutional. The same day it sent back to lower courts a case that resulted in California's law barring same-sex marriage being overturned. Since then, four federal Circuit Courts have ruled that state bans on same-sex marriage are unconstitutional, while a fifth Circuit Court upheld such restrictions.

In agreeing in January to take the cases, the Supreme Court said it would consider two constitutional questions:

• Does the 14th Amendment require a state to license a marriage between two people of the same sex?

• Does the 14th 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?

— Patricia Zapor, Catholic News Service 

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