Obergefell v. Hodges was a Supreme Court case that saw the court rule that the Fourteenth Amendment of the United States Constitution required states to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples. The case was argued on April 28, 2015, and decided two months later on June 26. Five justices—Anthony Kennedy, Elena Kagan, Sonya Sontamayor, Ruth Bader Ginsberg, and Stephen Breyer—were in favor of the decision, while four others—Justices Roberts, Scalia, Thomas, and Alito—opposed.
LGBTQIA+ people were long discriminated against in the United States. Even up to 2015, numerous states, including Michigan and Ohio, had laws defining marriage as being solely between one man and one woman. The court had previously ruled in Baker v. Nelson that the Federal courts were not able to review cases related to same-sex marriage, instead stating that it was up to individual states to make rules on the matter. No state actually legalized gay marriage until 2010, when Massachusetts did so, although some states allowed "civil unions" that conferred some of the legal benefits of marriage without actually granting the right to marry freely. By the time of the Obergefell case, 36 states had issued marriage licenses to gay couples.
Obergefell v. Hodges combined six court cases involving 14 different gay couples and two other individuals whose partners had previously died. Each case challenged a state law restricting marriage rights, and in each case, District Courts found that it was unconstitutional for a state to withhold a marriage license because of the sex of the individuals being married. The Sixth Circuit Appeals Court, however, reversed these decisions, and the bundled cases appealed to the Supreme Court. One of the plaintiffs, a man named James Obergefell, would eventually have his name applied to the case opposite that of Richard Hodges, the director of Ohio's Department of Public Health. However, neither of those parties were the only plaintiffs or defendants. The other plaintiffs included both gay and lesbian couples, while the other defendants included multiple state governors.
The case's plaintiffs made several arguments before the court. These included that while opponents of marriage rights viewed same-sex marriage as "demeaning" to the institution, Obergefell and the other plaintiffs were actually showing their deep respect for marriage's sanctity by trying so hard to be a part of it, as well as the argument that marriage has changed dramatically through the course of its history. They argued that arranged marriages were once extremely common but have since fallen mostly out of practice, so changing marriage laws and customs was hardly unheard of. They also held that the Fourteenth Amendment protected their right to marry and that Supreme Court precedent backed up their interpretation.
Ultimately, the arguments convinced five of the Court's nine justices. Anthony Kennedy, Elena Kagan, Sonya Sotomayor, Ruth Bader Ginsberg, and Stephen Breyer all voted in favor of Obergefell, while John Roberts, Antolin Scalia, Clarence Thomas, and Samuel Alito dissented. As a result, marriage between same-sex couples became legal across the United States.