State News
July 3, 2015

Historic Supreme Court ruling made on marriage equality

Same-sex couples will be free to marry throughout the United States

On June 26, the Supreme Court held that same-sex couples can no longer be denied the freedom to marry guaranteed by the Constitution, assuring that soon all loving and committed couples will be able to marry throughout the United States. It was a 5-4 split with the majority supporting same-sex marriage, which will now become a right in all 50 states.

The United States joins nineteen other countries where same-sex couples are allowed to wed.

Vermont’s elected officials released the following statements supporting the historic Obergefell v. Hodges Supreme Court Decision:

Rep. Peter Welch said: “The wall of marriage discrimination in America has finally come down. The Supreme Court affirmed today what Vermonters recognized years ago — that the quality of love between two people is more important than their gender,” Congressman Welch said. “With this historic decision, the Court not only embraced marriage equality, but in doing so it recognized the dignity and humanity of every LGBT American. I am so proud of Vermont for leading the nation with civil unions in 2000 and for being the first state to legislate marriage equality in 2009. Congratulations to the Vermont Supreme Court, Governor Dean, Governor Shumlin and the Vermont General Assembly for having the courage to stand up for the civil rights of LGBT Vermonters.”

Gov. Peter Shumlin said: “This is one of most significant moments for social justice in modern history. All loving, committed couples across this country – gay and straight, living side by side, raising their families, working and building full lives – have much to celebrate. I am deeply and personally proud that Vermonters led the way toward this long overdue decision, being the first state to pass civil unions and the first to legislatively legalize gay marriage. Today’s Supreme Court ruling is a rejection of fear, and instead an affirmation of hope and equal rights for all. The Court has closed the door on a terrible injustice by ensuring that the right to marry can no longer be denied to any gay couple simply because of where they call home.”

House Speaker Shap Smith added: “One of my proudest moments as House Speaker was standing at the podium when the House passed marriage equality. Few who sat through those debates would have foreseen today’s Supreme Court ruling legalizing marriage equality for all Americans. I am tremendously happy for all those who will now have equal rights to marriage under the law.”

Background

After the discriminatory Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) was found unconstitutional by the Supreme Court in 2013, married same-sex couples in Vermont had access to the 1,000-plus federal benefits and protections of marriage automatically afforded to opposite-sex couples.

Even after DOMA was struck down, however, same-sex couples in some other states were still being denied the freedom to marry, and married same-sex couples who traveled or moved to those states saw their marriages evaporate at state borders. This uneven legal patchwork meant that a married gay Vermont couple could find their family suddenly vulnerable — denied access to a spouse or child in a medical emergency, for instance — in parts of the U.S. It meant that Jim Obergefell’s name could be left off his late husband’s death certificate because their home state of Ohio refused to recognize their legal Maryland marriage.

Support for marriage equality has grown remarkably over the past two decades. The same principles of fairness that were argued before the Vermont Supreme Court in Baker v. Vermont, in town halls, at county fairs around the state, and at the Vermont State House were carried forward by equality advocates across the U.S. Each court and legislative victory mattered.

Now the nation’s highest court has sent a powerful message to the world that speaks of the value of gay relationships and families.

With significant civil rights progress comes pushback from those who feel threatened by change. Many predict that some states may attempt to defy the Supreme Court ruling and pass bills to allow discrimination based on “religious belief.” In a majority of states it is still legal to fire someone based on their sexual orientation or gender identity.

Still, supporters of the ruling celebrated across the country. Although there is still much work to be done to eradicate discrimination, last week’s historic advancement is a hopeful sign that we’re moving toward a day when the civil rights of LGBT citizens are recognized as essential human rights, they say.

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