Georgia’s same-sex marriage laws evaporated with the announcement of the 2015 Obergefell v. Hodges decision.
The landmark United States Supreme Court decision requires States to:
- license a marriage between two people of the same sex, and
- recognize a marriage between two people of the same sex when their marriage was lawfully licensed and performed out-of-State.
“The fundamental liberties protected by the Fourteenth Amendments Due Process Clause extend to certain personal choices central to individual dignity and autonomy, including intimate choices defining personal identity and beliefs…. History and tradition guide and discipline the inquiry but do not set its outer boundaries.”
In 1967 the Supreme Court invalidated laws prohibiting interracial marriage (Loving v. Virginia), and twenty years later the high court held that prisoners could not be denied the right to marry (Turner v. Safley).
In 2015 the Supreme Court’s Obergefell v. Hodges decision identifies four key principles and traditions to support marriage as a fundamental liberty of same-sex couples:
- the right to personal choice regarding marriage is inherent in the concept of individual autonomy. Decisions about marriage are among the most intimate that an individual can make, and this is true for all persons, whatever their sexual orientation.
- the right to marry is fundamental because it supports a two-person union unlike any other in its importance to the committed individuals. Same-sex couples have the same right as opposite-sex couples to enjoy intimate association.
- protecting the right to marry safeguards children and families and thus draws meaning from related rights of childrearing, procreation, and education. Without the recognition, stability, and predictability marriage offers, children suffer the stigma of knowing their families are somehow lesser. They also suffer the significant material costs of being raised by unmarried parents, relegated to a more difficult and uncertain family life.
- marriage is a keystone of the Nation’s social order. There is no difference between same- and opposite-sex couples with respect to this principle, yet same-sex couples are denied the constellation of benefits that the States have linked to marriage and are consigned to an instability many opposite-sex couples would find intolerable.
“The limitation of marriage to opposite-sex couples may long have seemed natural and just, but its inconsistency with the central meaning of the fundamental right to marry is now manifest.”
The Court looks to the Fourteenth Amendment’s equal protection clause and the due process clause. Some rights are implicit in liberty; others are secured by equal protection of the law.
The right to marry is a fundamental right inherent in the liberty of the person Same-sex couples may exercise the fundamental right to marry. “While the Constitution contemplates that democracy is the appropriate process for change, individuals who are harmed need not await legislative action before asserting a fundamental right.”
Prior to the Obergefell decision, Georgia’s constitution and statutes prohibited same-sex marriage and prohibited recognition of same-sex marriages formed in other states. Georgia’s courts, legislature, and local governments are now adapting to the new legal landscape. Stay tuned.
Read the entire Obergefell v. Hodges decision at 135 S. Ct. 2584 (U.S. 2015)
 Quoted passages within this article are from the Obergefell decision as published.
 388 U.S. 1 (U.S. 1967)
 482 U.S. 78, 95, (U.S. 1987)
© Karen S. Hindson, Hindson & Melton LLC