In a 5-4 decision, the Supreme Court recently ruled that gay marriage be recognized in all 50 states. The decision was based upon the Courts interpretation of the Constitution, and thus can be undone only by a formal amendment to the basic document, or a change of mind by a future Supreme Court. In its decision, the Court declared that two clauses in the Fourteenth Amendment mean that a “fundamental right to marry” can no longer be denied because the partners are of the same sex. It did not create a new fundamental right, but opened a long-existing one to those with same-sex partners. The Court’s holding also states that any marriage license from one state must be recognized in any other state.
Much of the ongoing debate will focus on claims that gay marriage will trample on the religious rights of those whose faith tells them that the institution should be open only for heterosexual couples. Anticipating Thursday’s ruling, a number of states passed laws giving businesses and other “moral” objectors a legal right not to accommodate gay couples, based on the objector’s First Amendment rights.
This ruling from the nations highest court will have some state and local effects as well. In Ohio, male persons of the age of 18 years and female persons of the age of 16 years, not nearer of kin than second cousins and not having a husband or wife, may be joined in marriage. Now that Ohio must recognize gay marriage, the state marriage laws provide for future potential suits against the state. For example, if two females wish to get married in Ohio, they can do so at age 16. On the other hand, if two 16-year-old males wish to get married, current state law would not allow for it. Several Ohio legal observers believe there will either be a challenge based upon Constitutional equal protection principles or the legislature will have to change the law. Needless to say, the Supreme Courts ruling will have lasting impact on society and thus we begin the sojourn into equal rights v. religious freedom for many years to come.
By: Matthew Watson