The Supreme Court decision in Obergefell v. Hodges brought marriage equality to all 50 states in the US. This landmark decision was widely celebrated, as it meant that same-sex couples were now able to enjoy the same legal rights as opposite-sex couples, including the right to marry. However, not everyone agreed with the decision. In fact, one of the most notable features of the Obergefell v. Hodges ruling was the dissenting opinion given by Chief Justice John G. Roberts, Jr.
In this blog post, we will take a closer look at the dissenting opinion in Obergefell v. Hodges, examining its arguments and exploring its implications.
What Was the Obergefell v. Hodges Case?
Before we delve into Chief Justice Roberts’ dissent, it is important to understand the context of the Obergefell v. Hodges case itself. This case was a consolidation of four cases, all of which challenged state laws banning same-sex marriage or refusing to recognize same-sex marriages performed in other states.
The primary issue in the case was whether the Fourteenth Amendment of the US Constitution guaranteed same-sex couples the right to marry. The plaintiffs argued that the Constitution’s protection of liberty and equality meant that they should be able to marry if they so chose. The defendants, on the other hand, argued that marriage was a traditional institution between a man and a woman, and that the states had the right to define marriage as they saw fit.
In a 5-4 decision, the Supreme Court ultimately found in favor of the plaintiffs, holding that the Constitution does indeed guarantee the right to marry on the basis of liberty and equality. This meant that states were no longer able to ban same-sex marriage or refuse to recognize such marriages performed in other states.
Chief Justice Roberts’ Dissenting Opinion
Chief Justice Roberts was one of the four justices who dissented in the Obergefell v. Hodges case. In his dissenting opinion, he made several key arguments against the majority decision.
One of Roberts’ main arguments was that the issue of same-sex marriage was not a matter for the courts to decide. He argued that the Constitution did not speak directly to the issue of marriage, and that therefore, the decision should be left up to the states and to democratic processes. He stated that “…it is not about whether, in my judgment, the institution of marriage should be changed to include same-sex couples. It is instead about whether, in our democratic republic, that decision should rest with the people acting through their elected representatives, or with five lawyers who happen to hold commissions authorizing them to resolve legal disputes according to law.”
Roberts also argued that the majority decision in Obergefell v. Hodges represented a departure from the historical understanding of marriage as a union between a man and a woman. He stated that “The majority’s decision is an act of will, not legal judgment. The right it announces has no basis in the Constitution or this Court’s precedent.”
Another key argument made by Roberts was that the decision would have far-reaching and potentially negative consequences. He argued that it would lead to conflicts between religious beliefs and anti-discrimination laws, potential litigation over tax-exempt status for religious institutions, and conflicts between parents’ rights and school policies relating to LGBT issues, among other things.
Implications of the Dissenting Opinion
The dissenting opinion by Chief Justice Roberts in Obergefell v. Hodges represents an important counterpoint to the majority decision. By arguing that the issue of same-sex marriage should be left up to the states and democratic processes, Roberts raises important questions about the role of the judiciary in shaping social policy.
Furthermore, the arguments made by Roberts about the potential consequences of the decision highlight the complexities and challenges that can arise when significant social change occurs. There have indeed been conflicts between religious beliefs and anti-discrimination laws since the decision, and the issue of parental rights in the context of LGBT issues has become increasingly relevant in recent years.
However, it is also important to note that the majority decision in Obergefell v. Hodges was grounded in a commitment to equality and individual liberty. This argument resonated with a majority of the justices, who felt that denying same-sex couples the right to marry was a clear violation of these values.
The Supreme Court decision in Obergefell v. Hodges was a landmark moment for same-sex couples in the US. However, the dissenting opinion given by Chief Justice John G. Roberts, Jr. is an important reminder that there are different perspectives on the issue of same-sex marriage, and that the question of how best to balance individual rights with democratic processes is an ongoing one. By examining Roberts’ dissent, we can gain a better understanding of the complexities and debates surrounding this issue.
Was Obergefell V Hodges judicial activism?
Obergefell v. Hodges was a landmark case that legalized same-sex marriage across the United States. The case was argued before the Supreme Court on April 28, 2015, and the decision was handed down on June 26 of that same year. The question of whether Obergefell v. Hodges was an example of judicial activism has been hotly debated ever since.
In the majority opinion, Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote that the Constitution guarantees the right to marry as a fundamental liberty protected by due process. The Court found that denying same-sex couples the right to marry amounted to a violation of their Equal Protection and Due Process rights under the Fourteenth Amendment.
Conservatives and opponents of the ruling criticized the decision as a form of judicial activism. They argue that the Supreme Court overstepped its bounds and created new law from the bench rather than interpreting the law. They suggest that the Court essentially rewrote the Constitution and that the decision should have been left to the states to decide on their own.
The four dissenting justices argued that the ruling was a classic example of judicial activism. Justice Scalia, in his dissent, pointed out that the Constitution says nothing about same-sex marriage, leaving it up to individual states to decide. He suggested that the majority opinion was not interpreting the Constitution but rather imposing its own policy preferences onto the American people.
Critics of the “judicial activism” argument counter that the Declaration of Independence’s promise of “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness” ought to be applied to all citizens, including those who are gay, lesbian, transgender, or questioning. They argue that the Constitution is a living document that must evolve with society and change as times change.
The debate over whether Obergefell v. Hodges was a form of judicial activism will continue to be debated for years to come. Regardless of one’s position on the issue, it’s clear that the ruling has had a significant impact on the lives of LGBT Americans and their pursuit of love and happiness.