Elise Buie Family Law | Marriage Equality Reaches the US Supreme Court

On April 28, 2015, the United States Supreme Court heard the oral arguments of parties contesting bans on same-sex marriage in 4 states: Ohio, Michigan, Kentucky and Tennessee. These states are the only ones in which bans on marriage equality have been upheld by federal appeals courts.


Currently, couples have the ability to marry regardless of biological sex in 36 states. The potential impact of a ruling by the Supreme Court would be to normalize the access to legal rights across all states. 


In Washington, marriage equality was established in December 2012. While this means that many Washington couples enjoy rights that would be denied to them in 14 other states, these couples face significant disadvantages that other couples do not. If couples from Washington (or any state that recognizes the right to marry) wish to relocate, they must be wary of states who would refuse to acknowledge same-sex marriage from different jurisdictions.


Even in states where federal courts have overturned bans on same-sex marriage, couples can have a difficult time gaining access to certain legal procedures. In Arizona, the ban was struck down October 17 2014, yet in March of 2015, a judge in Tucson refused to grant a divorce to Martha Morris and Vicki Sullivan, a couple who relocated to Arizona after being married in Vermot in 2010. He not only refused to grant the couple a divorce, he dismissed their petition ‘with prejudice’ (meaning that there was not ability for an appeal). The ruling was entirely based on the judge’s view of the legitimacy of same-sex marraige.


A ruling by the Supreme Court could go a long way in eliminating these inconsistencies and ensuring that couples in all states have equal access to legal proceedings governing marriage, adoption, custody, divorce and division of property.

However, how the Court will rule is unclear. Legal analysts agree that the decision will be a split one – with the ‘conservative bloc’ of the bench asking questions during oral arguments that lead most to believe they will vote against marriage equality, and the ‘liberal bloc’ asking questions that most viewed as relaying an opposite stance. Most eyes were on Justice Anthony Kennedy, who is predicted to be the ‘swing vote’ in this case. The questions posed by Kennedy to the attorneys representing both sides of the debate were a mixed bag – most agree which way he will rule on the issue is still unclear.


The decision, which will be one a landmark case of the current Court and one which millions of Americans are anticipating, is expected to be released early this summer.

STAY UP TO DATE

Subscribe to our newsletters

 
Subscribe to one or more of our newsletters, delivering meaningful insight on topics that matter to you and your family.

FURTHER READING

Latest Blog Posts

Establishing paternity and parentage is important for many families and parents. Regardless of why you want to establish paternity and parentage, the process has the potential to be confusing, especially if you are unfamiliar with the terms and rules for…

After divorce, you may find yourself living on one less stream of income than you did when you were married and want to find a way to make up for it. Or even if you didn’t lose any income by…

If you are in the process of getting remarried, a prenuptial agreement may be the last thing on your mind. It should be at the forefront of it, however, as it can be beneficial for you, your spouse, and, if…

As a mom of four (now adult) kids, I remember well the flood of emotions that came each time they went to my ex’s, especially during the early days of my separation and eventually after my divorce. Not only was…

The holidays can look much different during a divorce than they did only a year earlier, and the changes can take some getting used to. The challenge is that you have to start somewhere, and in these “newer” moments, it…

You can use Collaborative Law to support your process of creating and negotiating a prenup with your partner.

In Washington state, if you are involved in a custody dispute, which involves difficult questions related to specific needs for your children or serious parenting deficits (such as mental health, substance abuse, or domestic violence), an evaluation service may be…

Apologizing can be hard, especially if you have a contentious relationship with the person you are apologizing to. If you want to have a polite (even friendly) relationship with your ex in the future, though, owning up to and apologizing…

In the same way that every divorce is different, so, too, is every divorce lawyer and the law firms where they work. From lawyers’ individual personalities, expertise, and experience to law firms’ varying cultures and values which provide the framework…

As a divorce and family law attorney, I have yet to hear of anyone getting married and opening a savings account for divorce fees should they need such an account down the road. I also do not know of anyone…