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With ruling, Supreme Court 'stands behind' Delaware's same-sex couples

Delaware Public Media

In a landmark decision Friday, the Supreme Court ruled that states cannot deny same-sex couple the right to marry. It's a victory for gay and lesbian couples across the country, even in states like Delaware, where same-sex marriage has been legal since 2013.


John Culhane is a law professor at Widener University who's written extensively on the subject of same-sex marriage. He's also the co-director of Widener's Family Health Law & Policy Institute.


He says Friday's majority opinion -- the Court's vote was 5-4 in favor of marriage equality -- was based on legal precedents that made marriage a fundamental right.

"And what they've said is that if it's a fundamental right, it belongs to same-sex couples as much as it does to opposite-sex couples," Culhane explains. "And to deny them that right is to interfere with both the liberty and the equality that are guaranteed by the 14th Amendment of the Constitution."

He says dissenting justices disagreed on what marriage meant.

"The majority thought that marriage is more about committed relationship between two adults," Culhane says. "The dissenters felt that was a question for the political process to decide, and that the court shouldn't jump in and resolve the issue."

Before the ruling, different states had taken different approaches to allowing or banning same-sex marriage. Delaware was among those to legalize it -- becoming the 11th state to do so in 2013. Culhane says the ruling means same-sex couples in the First State will now have their marriages and the benefits of that status recognized across the country.

But Culhane adds that there are a variety of legal challenges that could come next -- from what he calls the unlikely scenario, a federal constitutional amendment, to states that are passing laws to allow clerks to refuse to certify marriages if they have a religious objection to the union.

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