On Friday, June 26, 2015, the U.S. Supreme Court issued its long-awaited decision in the case of Obergefell v. Hodges. In a 5-4 majority opinion, the Court ruled that the Fourteenth Amendment to the Constitution prohibits unequal treatment of same-sex and opposite-sex couples when it comes to marriage. As a result, gay and lesbian couples in all 50 states now have the legal right to get married.
What Obergefell v. Hodges Means for Same-Sex Couples in California
Of course, California has recognized same-sex marriages for a couple of years now. However, even setting its historical significance aside, the Supreme Court’s ruling is important to gay and lesbian couples in California for a number of reasons. For example, California same-sex spouses can now:
- Receive equal benefits from out-of-state employers
- Have their marriages legally recognized in all 49 other states
Married same-sex couples were already entitled to equal treatment on their federal taxes. The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) began allowing lawfully-married gay and lesbian couples to file joint tax returns in 2013.
How We Got Where We Are Today
In the 1970s, states across the nation began issuing laws that banned same-sex marriage. By the mid-1990s, same-sex marriages were almost universally banned throughout the United States. Then, in 2000 Vermont became the first state to give full marriage rights to gay and lesbian couples (though it did not officially recognize same-sex marriages until 2009).
Over the next 15 years leading up to the Court’s decision in Obergefell v. Hodges, a total of 36 states and the District of Columbia legalized same-sex marriage in one form or another. Most states, like California, relied on court decisions finding that unequal treatment was a violation of gay and lesbian partners’ civil rights. About a dozen states passed laws or relied on popular votes to legalize same-sex marriage. California was actually a relatively late adopter – with its court decision ultimately legalizing same-sex marriage coming in June 2013.
With Obergefell v. Hodges, same-sex marriage is officially legal in all 50 states. The 14 states with continuing bans must now both (i) allow same sex marriages, and (ii) legally recognize same-sex marriages from other states. Within hours of the court’s decision, county courts in several of these states were already issuing marriage licenses to gay and lesbian couples.
Lasting Impact for Same-Sex Couples in California and Nationwide
While the Supreme Court gave the states with same-sex marriage bans the opportunity to file for reconsideration, news reports indicate that most observers believe the Court’s decision will stand. As a result, Obergefell v. Hodges appears likely to retain its historic significance as the decision legalizing same-sex marriage nationwide.
Learn more about the legal benefits of marriage in California.
Speak with a Certified Family Law Specialist in San Diego, CA
The Law Office of Renkin & Associates provides legal counseling and representation for same-sex and opposite-sex couples in the San Diego area. If you have questions about planning for marriage, filing for divorce, or how to deal with any other family-related legal issues, contact us to speak with an experienced attorney today.