This June, the Supreme Court is expected to make a decision about whether same-sex marriage will become legal across the U.S.
Here’s the need-to-know info regarding everything that's happening right now in the fight for marriage equality.
Why is the Supreme Court even talking about gay marriage right now?
Couples and individuals from Ohio, Michigan, Tennessee, and Kentucky have filed federal lawsuits related to marriage equality. The cases have all been combined under one case, called Obergefell v. Hodges.
The decision in this case will determine two things: whether the Fourteenth Amendment requires states to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples, and if not, whether it requires states with bans to recognize same-sex marriages that were performed in other states.
Isn’t same-sex marriage already legal in most states?
Not really. Same-sex marriage is now legal in 37 states, but others still have bans in place. The upcoming Supreme Court decision will determine whether same-sex marriage is legal in all 50 states, or whether bans on same-sex marriage can be reinstated in states where they’ve already been struck down.
If same-sex couples can get married in other states, why does it matter what their own state says?
It matters because couples are treated differently from state to state, which can have serious implications.
For example, a man from Ohio who’s involved in the lawsuit has been fighting to be listed as his husband's spouse on his death certificate ever since his husband died of ALS in 2013. He wears a ring that contains some of his husband's ashes, and he says he's fighting for marriage equality to honor his husband's life.
Another couple from Ohio wants to have both of their names listed on the birth certificate for their child so that they can both be legally recognized as his parents. If something happened to one of them in the meantime, their son could be taken away.
And a couple from Kentucky learned that because their state refused to recognize their marriage, they had to go through extra hurdles about making medical decisions on each other’s behalf. This happened after one of them was rushed to the hospital with heart problems.
What are the positions of the Supreme Court judges who will be making this decision?
There are nine judges on the Supreme Court. It’s not exactly clear where they all stand on this issue, but in the past, five Justices, including Anthony Kennedy, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Elena Kagan, Sonia Sotomayor, and Stephen G. Breyer have made statements or decisions indicating that they support same-sex marriage.
Four Justices, including Clarence Thomas, Samuel Alito, John Roberts, and Antonin Scalia, have indicated that they’re opposed, or that they believe states should be allowed to decide.
What happened during the opening arguments on April 28th?
The Justices consulted lawyers and state officials on both sides of the debate and presented their own arguments and counter-arguments. A lot of potentially useful insights were explored, but things also definitely got a little ... weird. According to court transcripts, Ancient Greek sex, child brides, polygamy, and sibling marriages were among the strange topics raised by some of the more conservative judges. Full audio of the arguments is available for the curious.
What can I do to help in the fight for Marriage Equality?
Freedom to Marry and the Human Rights Campaign both offer petitions, ways to contact your legislators, and ways to donate. You can also find your local LGBT community center and contact them directly to ask how you can help.