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In a historic ruling on June 26, 2015, the Supreme Court, in Obergefell v. Hodges, agreed with 34 other federal judges who had found that the right to marriage for same-sex couples was protected by the Fourteenth Amendment. The effect of the ruling will be sweeping. In a few short months, marriage equality will be the law nationwide.
The ruling is the culmination of decades of work by LGBT advocates to improve public opinion while collecting victories in lower courts around the country. In June 2013 the United States Supreme Court decided two high profile marriage equality cases, United States v. Windsor and Hollingsworth v. Perry. Neither squarely addressed the question of whether same-sex couples have a constitutional right to marry, both led to further litigation in federal courts across the. Prior to the rulings, fewer than a dozen federal cases had addressed restrictions on same-sex marriages—and all of them were unsuccessful. After the rulings, judges from across the ideological spectrum changed course. Thirty-four of them, including 11 appointed by Republican presidents, agreed—based on the Supreme Court’s Windsor decision—the Constitution requires the right to marry be extended to same-sex couples. Now, five Supreme Court justices have agreed with them.
Although it is an important step forward, the broader fight for equality is just beginning. LGBT Americans are still disproportionately poor and are more likely to be subject to the criminal justice system. They are more likely to be bullied, abuse drugs and alcohol, and end up homeless. And, in most states, with this ruling in place, a couple could get married in the morning and fired from their jobs later that afternoon because of their sexual identity, with no hope of redress.
Still, the decision marks a milestone for equality. Below, each federal lawsuit ruling on the legality of a same-sex marriage ban—beginning with Perry itself—is summarized by circuit, and each presiding judge is briefly profiled.