Supreme Court Holds that States Must Recognize Lawful Same-Sex Marriages


In Obergefell v. Hodges, decided on June 26, 2015, 2015 WL 2473451, in a 5-4 decision, the United States Supreme Court held that states must recognize lawful same-sex marriages performed in other states. In rendering its decision, Justice Kennedy writing for the majority opinion reasoned that the fundamental liberties protected by the Fourteenth Amendment’s Due Process Clause extend to certain personal choice central to individual dignity and autonomy, including intimate choices central to identifying personal identity and beliefs.  Further, the decision noted that the Court has long held that the right to marry is protected by the Constitution and that four principals and traditions demonstrate that the reasons a marriage is fundamental under the Constitution apply with equal force to same sex couples: (1) the right to personal choice regarding marriage is inherent in the concept of individual autonomy; (2) the right to marry  supports a two-person union unlike any other in its importance to the committed individuals; (3) the right to marry safeguards children and families and thus draws meaning from related rights of childrearing, procreation, and education; and (4) this Court’s cases and the Nation’s traditions make clear that marriage is a keystone of the Nation’s social order.

Legal implications of marriage

Although same sex marriage has been legal in New York since 2011, the Supreme Court’s recent decision leads to an evaluation of the implications, for all couples alike.

When a person marries, it is typically a decision made out of love and affection for another individual (as it should be).  However, often not understood or considered are the legal implications of such a decision.  Marriage is a legal binding contract, which vests certain enforceable rights and responsibilities in spouses.  Typically, when spouses are at the point of understanding what rights and responsibilities they have.  It is often when they are divorcing when many spouses look back and wish they would have taken the time to understand the implications.

Like any contract one is considering, is important to understand the marriage contract.  To name a few implications of marriage, marriage impacts property rights. Marriage impacts support obligations.  Marriage impacts responsibility for debts. Marriage impacts parental rights. Marriage impacts health insurance.  Marriage impacts tax filing status.  Marriage impacts inheritance rights.  Marriage impacts immigration filings.  Marriage impacts who can make legal decisions for you.  Marriage impacts bankruptcy.

Matrimonial law is not a one-size fits all area, and each couples’ situation requires specific evaluation before entering into a marriage.  For an individual analysis and consultation, please contact us to discuss your specific matrimonial law needs.  Our matrimonial services include negotiating and drafting pre- and post-nuptial agreements, negotiating and drafting separation agreements for uncontested and contested divorces, handling divorce trials from inception through conclusion, counseling and advising clients in matters concerning separation and divorce, custody and visitation matters, spousal maintenance, child support and equitable distribution.

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