Creditable Marriage Goals and Government Interests: A Systems Approach for Handling Complexity, Apportioning Expertise, and Using Federalism (Anticipating Obergefell)
Journal of Research in Gender Studies, Vol. 5, Iss. 2 (2015)
27 Pages Posted: 21 May 2015 Last revised: 17 Feb 2016
Date Written: December 12, 2015
This Article argues that the Supreme Court should require that all states recognize legal same-sex marriages rather than mandate under the Fourteenth Amendment that states must issue marriage licenses to couples of the same sex. The briefing that advocates, including most amici, provided to the Supreme Court was generally abstract. The Court did not benefit from a combined answer to the two questions. It therefore did not hear a useful comparison of why a Yes to recognition, with a No to mandating authorization, might be a superior approach. If the Court were to require only recognition, it could avoid constitutionalizing marriage law; it need not decide recognition under the Fourteenth Amendment, despite its having certified the question under the Fourteenth Amendment. Rather, principles of comity draw upon the Court’s expertise in federalism and do not call for a direct intervention in state law-making about marriage. Such an approach could incentivize some states to offer their marriage licensing, and even their substantive law, to couples who do not travel to the state. Gay rights activists could help improve and modernize marriage licensing procedure by encouraging states to provide for the issuance of licenses to couples unable to travel or to be present together. They could also bring energy in the state legislatures and before state courts to the substantive evolution of marriage law that is less defined by beliefs about gender complementarity but not entirely severed from the element of gender in the moral architecture of many marriages.
Keywords: Obergefell v. Hodges, tiers of review, marriage, comity, federalism, state interest, rational basis, dignity, Section 5, enforcement
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