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Editorials

Legalize Same-Sex Marriage

The Supreme Court should rule in favor of same-sex marriage in Obergefell v. Hodges

By The Crimson Staff

Though the issue of recognizing same-sex marriage has largely been considered on a state-by-state basis in years past, it has recently morphed into a national topic. Last week, the Supreme Court heard oral a­­rguments over whether gay marriage is a constitutional right; onlookers from both sides scrutinized the proceedings and the words of the nine justices in an effort to gauge their thoughts and forecast the Court’s decision. With a ruling anticipated by early summer, the four consolidated cases the Court heard—including Obergefell v. Hodges—have the potential to reshape a prominent debate. We hope that the Court extends the national right to same-sex marriage as a matter of both principle and political pragmatism.

As The Crimson has previously opined, same-sex marriage should be constitutionally protected. This stance has not changed; the Supreme Court should rule in favor of legalizing same-sex marriage at the national level. Equal protection under the law requires states to recognize these relationships, and not doing so brings unjust harm to couples. No instance of this is more potent than Jim Obergefell, the case’s lead plaintiff, being unable to list himself on the death certificate of his deceased husband. Same-sex marriage should be recognized as a basic right rooted in our nation’s value of equality—it is the duty of the Court to uphold this principle where states have failed.

Such views have spread rapidly in recent years. In fact, one poll found that public opinion today in Alabama, the state currently least friendly towards same-sex marriage, matches that of the country’s friendliest state, Vermont, ten years ago. Since they were first legalized in Massachusetts in 2004, same-sex marriages have become permissible in 36 other states. And with 63 percent of Americans viewing gay marriage as a constitutional right, it seems likely that the trend will eventually extend to all state legislatures.

However, this does not mean that the Supreme Court should refrain from making a decision and instead allow states to continue deciding individually. As Chief Justice John Roberts said in 2013, “political leaders are falling over themselves to endorse” same-sex marriage. This marks a political wave that will continue to push with ever more force until gay marriage is a nationally recognized right. We hope that the Court stands on the favorable side of history and deems gay marriage constitutionally protected.

Further, even though public sentiment has moved increasingly in favor of same-sex marriage, a positive decision by the Supreme Court would nevertheless hold greater meaning—the Court's choice would surely be significant not only in a technical sense, but also in a symbolic one. Given the inevitability of future contentious debates on other important, related issues, the Court has an opportunity with its decision here to set precedent, and equally importantly, to dictate the tone of the conversation moving forward.

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