The case of Loving v. Virginia in 1967 was a seminal case in US law, as it struck down a Virginia law that banned interracial marriage. The basis for this decision was that banning marriage due to the races of the parties was a violation of the 14th Amendment, particularly the equal protection and due process clauses. The equal protection clause guarantees that the law will apply to everyone in an equal manner, and the due process clause states that a person’s rights cannot be infringed upon without having been treated fairly through the judicial system. Both of these clauses are fundamental to guaranteeing the rights of US citizens, and, most importantly, this amendment guarantees that the application of the law does not discriminate.
Therefore, the Virginia law in question violated both of these clauses and was found to be unconstitutional, in that the fundamental rights of the parties were violated (LOVING v. VIRGINIA, 2018). Similarly, the case of Obergefell v. Hodges in 2015 found that marriage cannot be limited to selected people, as banning it for some would violate the 14th Amendment. However, the difference is that this case was about same sex marriage, although, in the eyes of the law, the sexual orientation of the parties is irrelevant, just as it is with race. The implication of this is that states were not forced to issue marriage licenses to same sex couples and to recognize the validity of their legal union, something that had previously been banned in many states, particularly because of religious reasons (Obergefell v. Hodges, 2018). Of course, even basic interpretations of the 14 Amendment shows that depriving people of their basic rights is unconstitutional, regardless of religious reasons. Therefore, the rulings in both of these cases upheld the basic rights of equal protection and due process, particularly regarding marriage, as stated in the 14th Amendment.
Before hearing the case of Obergefell v. Hodges, the courts needed to first settle the laws against homosexuality that existed in many states. That is, laws existed that criminalized homosexuality in one way or another, and, because Obergefell v. Hodges was about homosexual marriage, it stands to reason that these laws needed to be taken into account before ruling. In other words, it would be impossible for this case to be decided if other issues involving same sex couples was not first figured out. For example, the case of Lawrence v. Texas, which is a seminal case in the evolution of gay rights, was about the legality of sodomy in the state of Texas.
That is, the state of Texas had already ruled that sodomy was illegal, and, therefore, this implies that homosexual marriage would be a violation of this law. Of course, the rulings on sodomy and homosexual marriage need to agree, so Lawrence v. Texas needed to be settled before Obergefell v. Hodges. In 2003, the court ruled in favor Lawrence, claiming that it was a violation of the 14th Amendment to regulate private sexual acts between consenting adults, thus forcing other states to change their laws regarding sodomy. Once this had been settled, it formed a legal bridge for the court to hear cases about homosexual marriage, as it would not be possible to hear cases about same sex marriage if the issue of sodomy had not first been settled.
In his majority opinion, Justice Kennedy justified his decision to strike down the Texas law banning sodomy. In particular, he reference a previous case, Bowers v. Hardwick, which upheld the ban on sodomy. In this case, Chief Justice Burger claimed that sodomy was against the traditional Judeo-Christian values of the country and that this was enough to ban it. That is, he reasoned that it would do more harm than good to decriminalize sodomy. However, Kennedy claimed that it was unconstitutional to deprive some of their rights, particularly those guaranteed by the 14th amendment, based on moral grounds. In other words, the decision made in Bower v. Hardwick could not be justified through legal or constitutional means, and it was made solely based on the judges’ religious leanings.
On the other hand, Justice Scalia objected to Kennedy’s opinion. In the dissenting opinion, he wrote that making decisions based on moral grounds is essential to the US legal system. He gives the examples of other laws that are not disputed and which are based on the moral interpretations of the people and the judges. For example, he brings up the laws against bigamy, incest, bestiality, etc. He claims that these have been accepted by most people, as they agree on a common sense of morality, which these violate. Therefore, he argues that this same argument can be applied to sodomy, in that many people believe that it violates their common sense of morality. Furthermore, he brings up the idea of stare decisis, which is the foundation for a common law system, such as that of the US.
This is the idea that a judge’s decision is based on previous cases, also known as precedent. Scalia claims that a decision like this had no regard for previous cases and was a incorrectly decided. Therefore, it would have a wide reaching effect on the legal system and many other cases that depended on the Bower decision. While Scalia emphasizes that his decision to vote against the majority was not based on any sort of bias against homosexuals. Rather, he claims that his decision is based on respect for the common law system.