Supreme Court

Supreme Court Marriage Equality Ruling Expected Shortly

By the end of the month, the Supreme Court is expected to issue a historic ruling on marriage equality. The joint suit – known by the first listed case of the group Obergefell v. Hodges – could establish marriage equality in all fifty states and addresses two questions:

  • Does the Fourteenth Amendment require a state to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples? And;
  • Does the Fourteenth Amendment require a state to recognize marriages of same-sex couples performed out of state?

On April 28, the Supreme Court heard oral arguments on the four combined cases relating to marriage equality. Several of the conservative justices questioned the plaintiff’s argument (the party arguing in favor of marriage equality), with Chief Justice Roberts suggesting that the plaintiff’s argument would “redefine” marriage. At the same time, many of the liberal justices questioned the states’ argument that marriage equality bans are not discriminatory, but rather seek to further the role of marriage as encouraging parents to stay married and bonded with their children. Importantly, Justice Kennedy, who is considered the swing vote in this case, also questioned how marriage equality would harm opposite-sex couples and pointed out that same-sex couples can also bond with their children.

The Central Conference of American Rabbis and Women of Reform Judaism both joined the Anti-Defamation League’s amicus brief in support of marriage equality. The URJ also joined an amicus brief for faith denominations and faith leaders on the side of the petitioners. Both briefs focus on different aspects of religious freedom in the U.S. Constitution: the brief joined by the CCAR and WRJ argues that same-sex marriage bans violate the Establishment and Equal Protection Clauses (First and Fourteenth Amendments, respectively) because they were enacted with the purpose of imposing a particular religious understanding of marriage as law. The brief that the URJ joined argues that civil marriage equality for same-sex couples will not prejudice religious belief or practice, but rather will prevent one set of religious beliefs from being imposed through civil law.

If the Court finds that the fourteenth Amendment requires a state to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples the second question become moot. However, if they find that marriage equality bans are constitutional, the Court would have to rule on whether states have to recognize marriages of same-sex couples performed out of state.

As Jews, we have a moral responsibility to advocate for marriage equality. In 2000, the Central Conference of American Rabbis approved a resolution empowering Reform Rabbis to perform marriages for same-sex couples, and for decades, the Reform Movement has advocated for LGBT rights based on the Jewish value that all human beings, regardless of sexual orientation, are created b’tzelem Elohim, in the image of God (Genesis 1:27), and are therefore deserving of equality and respect.

On Thursday, July, 2nd from 12:00-1:30PM ET, the RAC will be hosting an intern event The Morning After: the Supreme Court Term in the Light of Day, which will include a discussion of the ruling in Obergefell v. Hodges, as well as other important court cases from this term. Bring your lunch and we’ll provide dessert!

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Jordan Dashow

About Jordan Dashow

Jordan Dashow is a 2014-2015 Eisendrath Legislative Assistant at the RAC. He graduated in 2014 from Tufts University and is originally from Plainview, NY where he is a member of Manetto Hill Jewish Center.

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