Today, the U.S. Supreme Court declared that the Constitution’s promise of equal protection requires states to recognize the right of same-sex couples to marry. In Obergefell v. Hodges, Justice Kennedy announced that “the right to marry is a fundamental right inherent in the liberty of the person, and under the Due Process and Equal Protection Clauses of the Fourteenth Amendment couples of the same-sex may not be deprived of that right and that liberty. The Court now holds that same-sex couples may exercise the fundamental right to marry.”
“The court’s decision to recognize the rights of same-sex couples to marry is in alignment with the principles of equality and freedom that are fundamental in this country,” said LDF President & Director-Counsel Sherrilyn Ifill. “Every consenting adult deserves the opportunity to create a marital union with the person of their choosing, without having that right restricted because of their gender or sexual orientation.”
For decades, LDF has contended that the freedom to marry is a basic civil right that should be available to all consenting adults. In 1967, LDF filed a historic brief in Loving v. Virginia, the case in which the Supreme Court unanimously declared that state laws banning interracial marriage were unconstitutional, arguing that “state legislative power over marriages is not omnipotent,” since the “right to marry is a protected liberty under the Fourteenth Amendment and is one of the ‘basic civil rights of man.’” The principles set forth by Loving also dictate consenting gay and lesbian Americans have the right to marry the person of their choice, regardless of gender.
LDF filed a friend-of-the-court brief in today’s case, explaining that the arguments advanced against marriage equality were the same as those that were raised – and rejected – by the Supreme Court in Loving. LDF’s brief also noted that because there is a long history of discrimination and exclusion against the LGBTQ community – similar to the history of discrimination against the African-American community – state bans on same-sex marriage relegate gays and lesbians to an unequal and inferior status as a group. LDF’s argument was central to the Court’s decision, which noted, that a “first premise of the Court’s relevant precedents is that the right to personal choice regarding marriage is inherent in the concept of individual autonomy. This abiding connection between marriage and liberty is why Loving invalidated interracial marriage bans. . . .”
The Supreme Court’s decision affirming marriage equality, along with its decisions recognizing the availability and importance of the disparate impact standard in the Fair Housing Act and the legality of subsidies in Affordable Care Act, significantly advance the effort to end discrimination and ensure equal rights for all Americans.
The NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, Inc. (LDF) is not a part of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) although LDF was founded by the NAACP and shares its commitment to equal rights. Since 1957, LDF has been a completely separate organization. Please refer to us in media attributions as the “NAACP Legal Defense Fund” or “LDF”.