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I These cases come from Michigan, Kentucky, Ohio, and Tennessee, States that define marriage as a union between one man and one woman. Rising from the most basic human needs, marriage is essential to our most profound hopes and aspirations. This view long has been held—and continues to be held—in good faith by reasonable and sincere people here and throughout the world.

Finally, the First Amendment ensures that religions, those who adhere to religious doctrines, and others have protection as they seek to teach the principles that are so fulfilling and so central to their lives and faiths. Since same-sex couples may now exercise the fundamental right to marry in all States, there is no lawful basis for a State to refuse to recognize a lawful same-sex marriage performed in another State on the ground of its same-sex character. 14–556, 14-562, 14-571 and 14–574 _________________ JAMES OBERGEFELL, delivered the opinion of the Court. The lifelong union of a man and a woman always has promised nobility and dignity to all persons, without regard to their station in life.

Rights implicit in liberty and rights secured by equal protection may rest on different precepts and are not always co-extensive, yet each may be instructive as to the meaning and reach of the other. Indeed, recognizing that new insights and societal understandings can reveal unjustified inequality within fundamental institutions that once passed unnoticed and unchallenged, this Court has invoked equal protection principles to invalidate laws imposing sex-based inequality on marriage, see, , 539 U. The marriage laws at issue are in essence unequal: Same-sex couples are denied benefits afforded opposite-sex couples and are barred from exercising a fundamental right. (4) The right to marry is a fundamental right inherent in the liberty of the person, and under the Due Process and Equal Protection Clauses of the Fourteenth Amendment couples of the same-sex may not be deprived of that right and that liberty. (5) There may be an initial inclination to await further legislation, litigation, and debate, but referenda, legislative debates, and grassroots campaigns; studies and other writings; and extensive litigation in state and federal courts have led to an enhanced understanding of the issue.

Especially against a long history of disapproval of their relationships, this denial works a grave and continuing harm, serving to disrespect and subordinate gays and lesbians. Same-sex couples may exercise the fundamental right to marry. The State laws challenged by the petitioners in these cases are held invalid to the extent they exclude same-sex couples from civil marriage on the same terms and conditions as opposite-sex couples. 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.

Questions about the legal treatment of gays and lesbians soon reached the courts, where they could be discussed in the formal discourse of the law. Numerous same-sex marriage cases reaching the federal courts and state supreme courts have added to the dialogue. This abiding connection between marriage and liberty is why , at 574.

In 2003, this Court overruled its 1986 decision in , 570 U. This is true for all persons, whatever their sexual orientation.

NOTE: Where it is feasible, a syllabus (headnote) will be released, as is being done in connection with this case, at the time the opinion is issued.

The syllabus constitutes no part of the opinion of the Court but has been prepared by the Reporter of Decisions for the convenience of the reader.

The marriage laws at issue thus harm and humiliate the children of same-sex couples. This does not mean that the right to marry is less meaningful for those who do not or cannot have children. States have contributed to the fundamental character of marriage by placing it at the center of many facets of the legal and social order.

Precedent protects the right of a married couple not to procreate, so the right to marry cannot be conditioned on the capacity or commitment to procreate. 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.

They fell in love and started a life together, establishing a lasting, committed relation.

In 2011, however, Arthur was diagnosed with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, or ALS.

This dynamic can be seen in the Nation’s experience with gay and lesbian rights. Courts must exercise reasoned judgment in identifying interests of the person so fundamental that the State must accord them its respect.