In June, the United States Supreme Court issued its decision in Obergefell v. Hodges, a highly publicized case upholding the rights of same-sex couples to marry. This decision has widespread implications in various areas, many of which have not been anticipated in mainstream media coverage.
Most of the plaintiffs were same-sex couples who challenged practices of several states, including the refusals to issue marriage licenses or recognize valid marriages performed in other states. Although the challengers won in each of the federal trial courts, the intermediate appellate court ruled against them. This created a split in the law of the federal circuits, and the United States Supreme Court accepted the case for review.
The United States Supreme Court held that the right to marry was fundamental and applied to same-sex couples in addition to opposite-sex couples. As a result, the state laws that refused marriage licenses to same-sex couples were invalidated, as were those that refused to recognize valid same-sex marriages licensed in other states. In making its holding, the Court overruled a prior decision from the early 1970s.
While the media coverage of the Obergefell same-sex marriage case was extensive, the effects of the decision will be even more so. Here are some examples of areas that will likely be affected:
- Adoption rights
- Antidiscrimination law
- Family and Medical Leave Act rights
- Health care benefits
- Vital statistics, such as birth and death certificates
- Wills and trusts
Now that the Obergefell decision has been issued, many court cases will be brought to help clarify its impact. American family and employee rights will be impacted in many ways, from inheritance rights to spousal rights under the Family and Medical Leave Act.