June 26 is a momentous day in the history of LGBT rights — so much so that there was even a hoax going around, which some of us fell for, that President Obama was going to propose that it be designated a national holiday. (No one would believe such rumors about Donald Trump.) Here’s a look at the pro-LGBT U.S. Supreme Court decisions that made this date so important.
2003: The high court ruled antisodomy laws throughout the nation unconstitutional in Lawrence v. Texas, reversing its 1986 decision in Bowers v. Hardwick. “Petitioners’ right to liberty under the Due Process Clause gives them the full right to engage in private conduct without government intervention,” Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote for the court majority, adding, “The Texas statute furthers no legitimate state interest which can justify its intrusion into the individual’s personal and private life.”
2013: A two-fer: The court struck down section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act, which had prevented the federal government from recognizing same-sex marriages. The decision came in U.S. v. Windsor, in which lesbian widow Edie Windsor, a New York resident who had married Thea Spyer in Canada, sued over being charged inheritance taxes that would not have applied had her spouse been a man. And the high court declined to review a lower court ruling invalidating California’s Proposition 8, in the case Perry v. Schwarzenegger. California officials had refused to defend the voter-approved proposition that outlawed same-sex marriage in the state, after a brief period in which it was legal. The Supreme Court ruled that the private citizens who then took up the defense of Prop. 8 did not have legal standing to do so, and therefore the earlier ruling against the proposition stood, and marriage equality returned to the Golden State.
2015: In Obergefell v. Hodges, the court struck down all remaining state bans on same-sex marriage, making marriage equality the law of the land. “No union is more profound than marriage, for it embodies the highest ideals of love, fidelity, devotion, sacrifice, and family,” Justice Kennedy wrote for the majority. “In forming a marital union, two people become something greater than once they were. As some of the petitioners in these cases demonstrate, marriage embodies a love that may endure even past death. 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.” Following the ruling, public support for marriage equality has only grown. A Pew survey from 2017 showed that 62 percent of Americans approve of the legality of same-sex marriage, while 32 percent are opposed.
2017: On June 26, 2017, the court ruled in Pavan v. Smith that the state of Arkansas, in refusing to automatically list both members of a same-sex couple as parents on their children’s birth certificates, was violating the standards set down in Obergefell, that same-sex couples must have access to “the constellation of benefits that the State has linked to marriage.” The state automatically listed both members of opposite-sex couples, even if one partner bore no biological relationship to the child, while same-sex couples had to get a court order to have the nonbiological parent listed. The court made a summary ruling, meaning the justices declared the Arkansas practice and any similar arrangements unconstitutional without even hearing oral arguments in the case.