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Relationship Recognition

Relationship Recognition

Exciting news! On Friday, June 26th, 2015, the Supreme Court of the United States ruled on Obergefell v Hodges, and decided that all marriages are constitutional, and that all 50 states will have to recognize anyone’s marriage in the eyes of the law.


Our LGBT loved ones are finally getting what we have all worked so hard for: the full, fair, and equal legal recognition of their relationships. While PFLAG members are thrilled at this historic ruling, and continue to celebrate, we recognize that this is only one step in a much larger picture, and will continue to fight for equality in all aspects of life.


See more on the life changing ruling here!


What exactly was Obergefell v Hodges all about?


Let’s break this down:

On July 11th, 2013, John Arthur and James Obergefell were married in the state of Maryland. They then relocated to Ohio, where Arthur became terminally ill from amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease. Both Arthur and Obergefell wanted Obergefell’s name on the death certificate as a surviving spouse, and the Ohio registrar agreed, saying that discriminating against same sex marriage was unconstitutional. However, the Ohio Attorney General was adamant that Ohio’s same sex marriage ban be upheld, and Obergefell should not be allowed to be listed on the death certificate.


District Judge Timothy Black heard the case, as well as a second case regarding discrimination against same sex couples, and on April 14th, 2014, he ruled that Ohio must recognize same-sex marriages from different states. Unfortunately, Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine, appealed the case to the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals. On November 6, 2014, the Sixth Circuit ruled in favor of DeWine, and said that Ohio’s same-sex marriage ban did not violate the Constitution, and therefore, the state of Ohio was not required to put Obergefell’s name on Arthur’s death certificate.


Still with us?

On November 14, 2014, the cases asked the Supreme Court of the United States to hear the case, and to consider whether or not Ohio’s refusal to recognize same-sex marriages from other states went against the Fourteenth Amendment.


Side note: The fourteenth amendment discusses the rights people have as citizens of the United States, as well as equal protection under the law. Obergefell v Hodges was concerned specifically with the Due Process and Equal Protection Clauses. The Due Process clause stops states from depriving their citizens of their right to life, liberty, or property without legislative authority. The Equal Protection clause requires each state to provide equal and adequate protection to all of it’s citizens within its jurisdiction, no matter who the citizen is.


Back to the case:

The case was argued in April withMary Bonauto and Douglas Hallward-Driemeier representing the same-sex couples, and John J. Bursch and Joseph R. Whalen representing the state. After months of testimony and thoughtful thinking, on June 26th, 2015, the Supreme Court of the United States rule that same-sex marriage bans everywhere are unconstitutional.


So what does this mean?

37 states already recognized same-sex marriage, so only Alabama, Arkansas, Kentucky, Michigan, Mississippi, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota, Ohio, South Dakota, Tennessee and Texas were affected by the ruling.


As soon as the ruling goes into effect (which should be in late July or early August), all 50 states will be required to recognize everyone’s marriage, and grant same-sex couples the same marital benefits as a heterosexual couple would be granted.


Still have questions?

ThisMarriage Equality FAQ page set up and sponsored by a plethora of civil rights organizations  is a great help!


Are you not being treated equally even after the Supreme Court ruling? Tell Lambda Legalhere, and they may be able to help!


Federal Legislation


Respect for Marriage Act

Bill Number:

This bill was reintroduced in the House as H.R. 197 by Rep. Jerry Nadler (D-NY-10) and Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL-27) on January 7, 2015 and in the Senate as S. 29 by Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) on January 6, 2015. As of publication, the House version of this bill has 150 cosponsors and the Senate version has 44 cosponsors.


What this Bill Will Do:

RMA repeals Section 2 of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), and restores the rights of all lawfully married couples - including same-sex couples - to receive the benefits of marriage under federal law. The bill also provides same-sex couples with certainty that federal benefits and protections would flow from a valid marriage celebrated in a state where such marriages are legal, even if a couple moves or travels to another state.

What You Need to Ask For:

Urge your Senator or Representative to support and cosponsor the Respect for Marriage Act, especially if they are in the House Subcommittee on the Constitution and Civil Justice or the Senate Committee on the Judiciary. Thank them if they have already done so.


PFLAG Talking Points:

  • Americans Support Extending Protections to Same-Sex Couples.The system of federal benefits has always been based on marriage, and while some same-sex marriages are sure to receive benefits where they live provided that their marriage is legal where celebrated, others are not. This would grant the same rights to same-sex married couples to be recognized to the extent provided by law where they live.

  • SCOTUS struck down Section 3 of DOMA on June 26, 2013. RMA would repeal DOMA’s Section 2. This bill repeals DOMA in its entirety and ensures that all married couples have certainty that federal benefits and protections are portable from a marriage valid where performed, even if the couple moves or travels.

  • Allows States to Determine Legal Relationships. The bill does not require states that have not yet enacted legal protections for same-sex couples to recognize a marriage. Nor does it obligate any person, state, locality, or religious organization to celebrate or license a marriage between two persons of the same sex. This legislation only requires the federal government to equally apply its policy of looking to the states in determining what legal relationships are eligible for federal benefits.

Important Notes

  • As of publication, the House version of this bill has 150 cosponsors and the Senate version has 44 cosponsors.

  • The bill was referred to the House Subcommittee on the Constitution and Civil Justice and the Senate Committee on the Judiciary.

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