The 2015 “Marriage Equality” decision by the United States Supreme Court in Obergefell v. Hodges was a landmark case that struck up much debate and heated emotions. These emotions were brought on by religious beliefs, personal relationships to the outcome of the case, political affiliations, and much more. Almost every person in the country had an opinion on the case and every person in the country would be affected by the decision because the outcome of the case would have an effect on every state’s marriage laws.
Let’s backtrack for a moment so we can fully understand this case’s impact in Georgia. Prior to the Obergefell decision, Georgia law refused to recognize a marriage between two people of the same sex. Not only would the state refuse to recognize a marriage performed lawfully in another state between two people of the same sex, but the state would also refuse to issue a marriage license to a couple of the same sex. Laws pertaining to homosexuality go back even further in Georgia. There was at one point a Georgia law which criminalized certain homosexual acts. But, in 2003, the United States Supreme Court overruled its 1986 decision in Bowers v. Hardwick to uphold this law. Here, the Supreme Court stated that laws making same-sex intimacy a crime “demea[n] the lives of homosexual persons.”
Like the cases previously stated, many cases pertaining to same-sex marriages have reached the federal and state Supreme Courts, but none with the same impact as Obergefell. In making the ruling, the majority justices looked to the United States Constitution and Bill of Rights. First, Justice Kennedy reasoned that an interest in personal dignity is central to the due process clause of the 14th amendment, which details that no state shall “deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law.” Dignity is therefore inherent in this idea and “extends to intimate choices that define personal identity and beliefs. Next, Kennedy pointed out that when the founders created the Bill of Rights, there was no specific formula for deciding what is included on or off the ultimate list. Instead, it evolves over time, as it did when the Supreme Court held that the right to marry is protected by the Constitution in Loving v. Virginia.
Under the Obergefell decision, the State of Georgia must recognize a marriage between two people of the same sex when the marriage was lawfully licensed and performed out-of-state. Not only this, but the decision also requires the State of Georgia to issue marriage licenses between two people of the same sex on the same basis that it would otherwise issue a marriage license between two people of different sexes.
If you or someone you know has been denied a marriage license based on sexual orientation, please contact the attorneys at Vayman & Teitelbaum. Our skilled attorneys will not only explain the laws as they pertain to your situation but will also fight to protect your rights.