The United States of America is a country united not by a set of religious beliefs, a common ethnic background, or even a monarchical family, but rather, a shared appreciation for freedom, specifically the freedom to live one’s life to its fullest potential and in a manner of one’s choosing. Although this tradition is as old as the first settlers, it has been constrained throughout history, by slave codes, alien land laws, Jim Crow legislation, and Indian Removal Acts. Recently, one more barrier to fulfilling the American promise of freedom and equality was removed when the Supreme Court ruled in Obergefell v. Hodges that the right to marry is guaranteed to same-sex couples under the Constitution.
Although the right to marriage is not explicitly stated in the Bill of Rights, the Supreme Court deemed it a fundamental right in the case of Loving v. Virginia, which invalidated laws banning interracial marriage on the grounds that restrictions of citizens’ right to marry directly violated the Fourteenth Amendment, which guarantees all citizens equal protection under the law. Just as banning interracial marriages was unjust and discriminatory, bans on same-sex marriage similarly marginalized and demeaned same-sex couples. The inability to marry not only created an image of homosexuals as second-class citizens; it also debased the authenticity and genuineness of their relationships. To ostracize and restrict fellow citizens based on inborn qualities they cannot control and that do not harm others is unfair, hypocritical, and above all, deeply un-American.
Aside from the moral imperatives that support the Supreme Court’s ruling, there are also practical, every-day ramifications that benefit many Americans. Same-sex couples can now enjoy marriage and all of the legal benefits that come with it. They gain taxation and inheritance rights, hospital visitations, and the ability to use family health care coverage, advantages of marriage that had been denied in the past. Furthermore, this ruling positively impacts the
children of same-sex couples, who will now have more stable family structures and be guaranteed better protection if their family is affected by separation or the death of a parent. Marriage will also bolster same-sex couples’ efforts to adopt children. Increased adoptions not only benefit the couples by allowing them to fulfill a lifelong dream, but they also provide reliable, loving homes to thousands of children in the United States’ foster care system. Just as legalizing marriage between same-sex couples would strengthen the nation as a whole by fulfilling constitutional promises, it would also buttress families who have long struggled due to prejudiced laws.
The pursuit of happiness, an oft-quoted phrase from the Declaration of Independence, is used to summarize the rights protected by the Constitution and the aspirations the nation attempts to foster through its laws. By ruling that same-sex couples possess the right to marriage, the Supreme Court moves one step closer to ensuring that this pursuit is available to all and that no one is hampered or impeded in it. That is an accomplishment all Americans should be able to celebrate together.