06/30/2015 05:51 pm ET Updated Jun 30, 2016

The Supreme Court's Impact on Same-Sex Marriage and Divorce


In a truly historic decision, the Supreme Court ruled in the case of Obergefell v. Hodges that same-sex couples may exercise the fundamental right to marry in all states. As Justice Kennedy eloquently stated in the Court's majority opinion:

"It would misunderstand these men and women to say they disrespect the idea of marriage. Their plea is that they do respect it, respect it so deeply that they seek to find its fulfillment for themselves. Their hope is not to be condemned to live in loneliness, excluded from one of civilization's oldest institutions. They ask for equal dignity in the eyes of the law. The Constitution grants them that right."

The Supreme Court has now defined marriage to include same-sex couples who desire to enter into the commitments and to receive the rights and responsibilities that come with marriage. Gays and lesbians can no longer be relegated to second-class status citizens in states that would ban them from marrying or having their marriage recognized. This universal recognition conferred by the United States Supreme Court brings uniformity to treatment of same-sex couples for federal as well as state purposes for crucial legal issues such as spousal benefits, retirement recognition, social security, adoption, tax filing status, and health care coverage.

What had previously existed for these couples was a confusing legal patchwork of 37 states, plus Washington, DC, allowing same-sex couples the right to marry, while 13 states prohibited the unions. As would be expected, this severely impacted hundreds of thousands of people in the LGBT community who had to fear a job transfer or a simple relocation to one of those prohibition states.

This sense of dread and lack of security would be further multiplied if the marriage was not succeeding and there was a growing possibility of divorce. In addition, these uncertain legal prospects would be made even worse if children were involved. As a result, these couples would have the prospect of marriage in one state and then moving to another region and not having access to a divorce if things were not working out. This universal recognition conferred by the United States Supreme Court effectively gives access to justice to same-sex married couples who have resided in the 13 prohibition states and experienced marriages that do not succeed. These couples can now seek relief from the Courts to dissolve their marriages, make decisions regarding their children, support, property division and all the other critical issues that are addressed in domestic relations cases.

Overall, with this landmark decision from the United States Supreme Court, there is no longer anything called "same-sex marriage" or even "same-sex divorce." In its place, is now something we can all inclusively refer to as a marriage or divorce. This is the way it should have been all along.