Resources: The U.S. Supreme Court in ‘Obergefell’

The 'Obergefell' Ruling

In the spring of 2015, the United States Supreme Court reviewed cases from four states on the freedom to marry, with oral argument held Tuesday, April 28. This historic moment was exactly what so many people – from the families who fought for their marriages, to the legal teams and organizations who shepherded these cases – worked so hard toward for over a decade. A decision in the case, Obergefell v. Hodges, was issued on June 26, 2015. Read the ruling here.

Party Briefs to SCOTUS

Obergefell v. Hodges involved cases from four states, where plaintiffs were seeking the freedom to marry or respect for their marriages legally performed in other states. In the spring of 2015, all parties sounded off with their written arguments to the U.S. Supreme Court. Here are the party briefs:

Kentucky:

Michigan:

Ohio:

Tennessee

'Obergefell' Amici Briefs in Support of the Freedom to Marry

On March 6, dozens of "friend-of-the-court" briefs were filed to the U.S. Supreme Court urging the court to rule in favor of the freedom to marry nationwide. Read more about each of the briefs below:

Clergy and Faith Leaders

Amici Briefs

A broad range of religious groups, organizations, and leaders - including nearly 2,000 individual clergy - signed onto this brief arguing in favor of civil marriage for same-sex couples. The signers represent people of faith living in each of the 50 states and Washington, D.C. READ THE BRIEF

Key Signers: Rev. Gay Clark Jennings, President of the House of Deputies of The Episcopal Church; more than a dozen Bishops of The Episcopal Church in Kentucky, Michigan, Ohio, and Tennessee (all members of the House of Bishops of the General Convention); General Synod of the United Church of Christ; the Jewish Theological Seminary; the Reconstructionist Rabbinical Association; the Union for Reform Judaism; the Unitarian Universalist Association; the United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism; the Covenant Network of Presbyterians; and nearly 2,000 individual clergy from a broad range of religious traditions, including: Lutheran Bishop William Gafkjen of the Indiana-Kentucky Synod; United Methodist Bishops (ret.) C. Joseph Sprague of Columbus, OH and Melvin G. Talbert, Hermitage, TN; Rev Dr. CT Vivian, Founder of CT Vivian Leadership Institute from GA; David Key, Director of Baptist Studies of Emory University's Candler School in GA; Richard Cizik, Rev. Dr., Anglican, President, New Evangelical Partnership for the Common Good in Fredericksburg, VA; Emilie Townes, Carpenter Professor of Womanist Ethics and Society, American Baptist Church at the Vanderbilt Divinity School in Nashville, TN; Geoffrey A. Black, General Minister and President, United Church of Christ in Cleveland, OH; and Lindsay Andreolli-Comstock, Executive Director of the Alliance of Baptists, Beatitudes Society in Raleigh, NC

By reversing the judgment of the court below without reliance on religiously based arguments, and by affirming the constitutional promise of equal treatment for different- and same-sex couples, this Court will ensure that civil law neither favors nor disfavors any particular religious viewpoint. Requiring equal treatment for different- and same-sex couples with respect to civil marriage will, in fact, reaffirm the religious liberty fundamental to this nation’s founding identity. When the freedom to marry is fully respected, all couples will have the right to a solemnized union before a justice of the peace, while all individual faith communities will retain the right to decide who among such couples may seek religious sanction of their union.

Businesses and Corporations

Amici Briefs

Nearly 400 major American companies, including 40 of the Fortune 100 companies, signed a brief making the business case for marriage. The employers argue that the patchwork of marriage laws across the country cause them great financial burdens and impede their ability to administrate effectively. READ THE BRIEF

Key Signers: Aetna, Amazon.com, American Airlines, American Express, Apple, AT&T, Capital One, Cardinal Health, Cigna, Cisco, Citigroup, Colgate-Palmolive, CVS Health, Delta Air Lines, EBay, Edelman, Facebook, General Electric, General Mills, Goldman Sachs, Google, Hilton, HSBC, Intuit, Johnson & Johnson, Kimberly-Clark, Levi Strauss, Marriott, Microsoft, MillerCoors, Morgan Stanley, the New England Patriots, New York Life, Nike, Office Depot, Orbitz, Pandora, PepsiCo, Pfizer, Procter & Gamble, the San Francisco Giants, Staples, the Tampa Bay Rays, Target, TD Bank, Twitter, UBS, United Airlines, Verizon, Walt Disney, and Wells Fargo.

As employers, amici know firsthand that this fractured legal landscape hampers economic growth and impedes innovation by forcing businesses to work harder, and invest more, to achieve the same return on our investments. Inconsistent marriage laws force companies to divert significant time and money to the creation and maintenance of complex administrative systems needed to differentiate treatment of otherwise indistinguishable employees based on the different marriage laws of the places where they live. These differences can create rifts in the employer employee relationship. Employers are better served by a uniform marriage rule that gives equal dignity to employee relationships. Allowing same-sex couples to marry improves employee morale and productivity, reduces uncertainty, and removes the wasteful administrative burdens imposed by the current disparity of state law treatment.

Law Enforcement Officers, First Responders, and Organizations

Amici Briefs

More than 200 First Responders - police officers, firefighters and EMTs - have signed onto this brief making the case that extending the freedom to marry to same-sex couples protects First Responders and their families through equal rights in life and equal access to benefits for the families of the fallen. READ THE BRIEF

Key Signers: Dozens of police chiefs, fire chiefs, and sheriffs in states across the country, including: Nashville Police Chief Michael Anderson; Los Angeles Police Chief Charles L. Beck; Columbus Division of Police Chief Kimbery Jacobs; Dayton, Ohio Police Chief Richard Biehl; Sheriff Scott Israel of Broward County, FL; Sheriff John Urguhart of King County, FL; Sheriff Adrian Garcia of Harris County, TX; St. Louis Metropolitan Police Chief D. Samuel; Minneapolis Police Chief Janee Harteau; Los Angeles Fire Chief Ralph Terrazas; Providence, Rhode Island Police Chief Hugh Clements; Providence, Rhode Island Fire Chief Clarence Cunha; Tampa, Florida Police Chief Jane Castor; Seattle Police Chief Kathleen O'Toole; Bothell, Washington Police Chief Carol Cummings; San Francisco Police Chief Gregory Suhr; Gilford, New Hampshire Police Chief Anthony Bean Burpee; Richmond, California Police Chief Chris Magnus; El Cerrito, California Police Chief Sylvia Moir; San Rafael, California Police Chief Diana Bishop; Chief James Cannell, Deputy Chief, Columbus Division of Fire; Sean Devlin, Battalion Chief of Columbus Division of Fire; Jack Reall, Battalion Chief of Columbus Division of Fire; Sheriff Amadeo Ortiz (Ret.) of San Antonio Texas; Fire Chief Cindy Dick (Ret.) of the Tallahassee Fire Department; Deputy Police Chief Cheryl Stewart (Ret.) of Tallahassee; Deputy Chief Greg Miraglia (Ret.) of Napa Valley

Mayors of America's Cities 

Amici Briefs

226 mayors and an additional 40 cities signed onto this brief making the case that the freedom to marry strengthens America's cities. Mayors from 38 states plus the District of Columbia are represented, with a wide range of jursidctions - from the smallest of towns to the top five largest cities in the country - speaking out in support of marriage. The brief also includes the U.S. Conference of Mayors, the National League of Cities, and the International Municipal Lawyers Association. READ THE BRIEF

Key Signers: Mayor Mike Rawlings of Dallas, TX; Mayor Michael Duggan of Detroit, MI; Mayor John Cranley of Cincinnati, OH; Mayor Michael Coleman of Columbus, OH; Mayor Kevin Faulconer of San Diego; Mayor Eric Garcetti of Los Angeles; Mayor Michael Nutter of Philadelphia; Mayor Muriel Bowser of the District of Columbia; Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake of Baltimore; Mayor Mayor Karyn Hippen of Thompson, ND; Mayor Johnny Ford of Tuskegee, AL; and Mayor Madeline Rogero of Knoxville, TN

Municipalities, as the level of government most closely connected to the community they serve, bear a great burden when a target sector of their populace is denied the right to marry. … When the freedom to marry is denied, municipalities are the first level of government to suffer the impact.

Conservative Leaders

Amici Briefs

More than 300 conservatives and Republicans have signed onto this historic brief making the case that the freedom to marry is a conservative value - and that marriage is strengthened, and its value to society and to individual families and couples is promoted, by providing access to civil marriage for all American couples. READ THE BRIEF

Key Signers: Kenneth B. Mehlman, Chairman, Republican National Committee, 2005-2007; retired Senator John Danforth (R-MO); former Senator Alan Simpson (R-WY); Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker; Senator Mark Kirk (R-IL); United States Congressmembers Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL), Richard L. Hanna (R-NY), Bob Dold (R-IL), and Carlos Curbelo (R-FL); Jon Huntsman, governor of Utah (2005-2009); Beth Myers and Carl Forti, former Mitt Romney senior advisers; Mark McKinnon, former chief media advisor to President George W. Bush; Ana Navarro, National Hispanic Co-Chair of John McCain for President, 2008; a dozen members of Young Conservatives for the Freedom to Marry, including campaign manager Jerri Ann Henry, Margaret Hoover, Ed Lopez, Liz Mair, Marco Nunez, Nathon Parsons, Craig Stowell, Nina Verghese, SE Cupp, Casey Pick, Abby Huntsman, Torrey Shearer

Although amici hold a broad spectrum of socially and politically conservative, moderate, and libertarian views, amici share the view that laws that bar same-sex couples from the institution of civil marriage, with all its attendant profoundly important rights and responsibilities, are inconsistent with the United States Constitution’s dual promises of equal protection and due process. The marriage bans challenged here, like the act at issue in Windsor, target gay and lesbian couples and their families for injurious governmental treatment. The bans are accordingly inconsistent with amici’s understanding of the properly limited role of government. Rather, amici embrace Barry Goldwater’s expression of that understanding, namely that '[w]e do not seek to lead anyone’s life for him—we seek only to secure his rights and to guarantee him opportunity to strive, with government performing only those needed and constitutionally sanctioned tasks which cannot otherwise be performed.

Freedom to Marry's Brief

Amici Briefs

Freedom to Marry's own brief argues that sexual orientation discrimination should be presumed unconstitutional, even in the absence of explicit judicial heightened scrutiny, and that because there is no legitimate, evidence-based justification for marriage discrimination, the U.S. Supreme Court should affirm the freedom to marry throughout the land. The brief was authored by former U.S. Solicitor General Walter Dellinger of O’Melveny & Myers, counsel of record for the filing. READ THE BRIEF

Respondents’ marriage bans discriminate against members of an historically disparaged minority—namely, gay people. And they deprive gay people of personal liberty and dignity. They present quintessential examples of measures that must be presumed unconstitutional and subjected to meaningful rationality review ... We are one country, with one Constitution – and the dignity, security, and meaning that the freedom to marry and respect for marriages entail belong to all Americans, gay and non-gay alike.

All Amici Briefs Filed Supporting Plaintiffs

  • The United States of America (Obama administration and Department of Justice) (BRIEF)
  • 167 members of the U.S. House of Representatives and 44 U.S. Senators (BRIEF)
  • 92 Plaintiff Couples in Other Marriage Cases (BRIEF)
  • The Alliance: State Advocates for Women's Rights and Gender Equality (BRIEF)
  • American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers (BRIEF)
  • American Bar Association (BRIEF)
  • American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations (BRIEF)
  • American Humanist Society and Center for Inquiry (BRIEF)
Amici Briefs
  • American Public Health Association (BRIEF)
  • American Psychological Association (BRIEF)
  • American Sociological Association (BRIEF)
  • Americans United for Separation of Church and State (BRIEF)
  • Anti-Defamation League (BRIEF)
  • Athletes (BRIEF)
  • Bay Area Lawyers for Individual Freedom (BRIEF)
  • BiLaw (BRIEF)
  • 379 Businesses (BRIEF)
  • Campaign for Southern Equality & Equality Federation (BRIEF)
  • Carlos Ball, et. al (BRIEF)
  • Cato Institute (BRIEF)
  • Cleveland Choral Association (BRIEF)
  • Columbia University Law School Sexuality and Gender Law Clinic (BRIEF)
  • Conflict of Law Scholars (BRIEF)
  • Conflict of Laws and Family Law Professors (BRIEF)
  • 300+ Conservative Leaders and Republicans (BRIEF)
  • Constitutional Accountability Center (BRIEF)
  • Constitutional Law Scholars (BRIEF)
  • Council of Churches (BRIEF)
  • Current and Former Elected Officials from Michigan, Ohio, Kentucky and Tennessee (BRIEF)
  • County of Cuyahoga, Ohio (BRIEF)
  • Douglas Laycock (BRIEF)
  • Donaldson Adoption Institute (BRIEF)
  • Elected Officials and Former Office Holders of Democratic Parties (BRIEF)
  • Equality Ohio (BRIEF)
  • Experiential Learning Lab at NYU School of Law (BRIEF)
  • Family Equality (BRIEF)
  • Family Law Scholars (BRIEF)
  • Foreign and Comparative Law Experts (BRIEF)
  • Freedom to Marry (BRIEF)
  • Garden State Equality (BRIEF)
  • Gary Gates (BRIEF)
  • GLMA (BRIEF)
  • Historians of Marriage (BRIEF)
  • Hon. Lawrence J. Kobb, Rudy F. Deleon, Hon. William J. Lynn, III, Hon. Patrick J. Murphy, Hon. Joe R. Reeder, Vice Adm. Joseph Sestak, Hon. Douglas B. Wilson, & Service Women's Action Network (BRIEF)
  • Hon. John K. Olson (BRIEF)
  • Howard University School of Law Civil Rights Clinic (BRIEF)
  • Human Rights Watch (BRIEF)
  • Human Rights Campaign and 207,551 Americans (BRIEF)
  • Indiana University (BRIEF)
  • Institute for Justice (BRIEF)
  • Kristin M. Perry et al (BRIEF)
  • Langley Hill Friends Meeting (BRIEF)
  • Law Enforcement and 200+ First Responders (BRIEF)
  • Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights (BRIEF)
  • Leadership Council (BRIEF)
  • Legal Services NYC (BRIEF)
  • Legal Scholars Stephen Clark, Andrew Koppelman, Sanford Levinson, Irina Manta, Erin Sheley, and Ilya Somin (BRIEF)
  • LGBT Student Organizations (BRIEF)
  • Liberty Education Forum (BRIEF)
  • Lisa Brown, Clerk/Register of Deeds for Oakland County, Michigan (BRIEF)
  • MA, CA, CT, DE, DC, IL, IA, ME, MD, NH, NM, NY, OR, PA, RI, VT & WA (BRIEF)
  • Marriage Equality USA (BRIEF)
  • Mattachine Society (BRIEF)
  • Mayors from 200+ Cities and the Mayors for the Freedom to Marry (BRIEF)
  • NAACP (BRIEF)
  • National Family Civil Rights Center (BRIEF)
  • National Women's Law Center, Williams Institute Scholars of Sexual Orientation and Gender Law, and Women's Legal Groups (BRIEF)
  • Organization of American Historians (BRIEF)
  • OutServe-SLDN and American Military Partner Association (BRIEF)
  • Professor W. Burlette Carter (BRIEF)
  • Professors Laurence H. Tribe and Michael C. Dorf (BRIEF)
  • PFLAG (BRIEF)
  • Religious Society of Friends (BRIEF)
  • 2,000+ Religious Leaders & Clergy Members (BRIEF)
  • SAGE (BRIEF)
  • Scholars of the Constitutional Rights of Children (BRIEF)
  • Survivors of Sexual Orientation Change Therapies (BRIEF)
  • State of Hawaii (BRIEF)
  • State of Minnesota (BRIEF)
  • Brief of the Commonwealth of Virginia (BRIEF)

Audio from Oral Arguments

National Marriage Plaintiffs Gathering

On the eve of the Supreme Court oral argument, Freedom to Marry brought together more than 75 marriage plaintiffs from 30+ states spanning 40 years of history in Washington, D.C. for a National Marriage Plaintiffs Gathering. Read more about the event – and see photos – here, and watch video from the gathering: