Federal Judges Now Seeing The Simple Truth About Gay Marriage: It's A Matter Of Love And Equality

Late last year, U.S. District Judge Robert J. Shelby ruled that Utah's voter-approved gay marriage ban was an unconstitutional attack on the rights of gay and lesbian people. Shelby's opinion veered away from typically stuffy legal jargon, instead deriding opponents of marriage equality for their fear of giving same-sex couples the "right to form a family that is strengthened by a partnership based on love, intimacy, and shared responsibility."

Shelby apparently started a trend for his judicial colleagues, as other state gay marriage bans have met similar fates over the past six months -- with a handful being ruled unconstitutional this month alone. Adam Serwer of MSNBC recently noted that federal judges have effectively turned "same-sex marriage rulings into writing competition ... self-consciously recognizing their potential role in making history." Whether it's a deliberate attempt to secure a position in the history books, or an honest and uncharacteristically emotional assessment of what they perceive as a fundamental injustice (or perhaps some combination of the two), it's clear that judges are seeing the simple truth about same-sex marriage: It's all about love and equality.

Take a look below at the most powerful quotes from the rulings in each state.


"The issue we resolve today is a divisive one. Some of our citizens are made deeply uncomfortable by the notion of same-sex marriage. However, that same-sex marriage causes discomfort does not make its prohibition constitutional. Nor can past tradition trump the bedrock constitutional guarantees of due process and equal protection. … [In] future generations the label same-sex marriage will be abandoned, simply to be replaced by marriage.

"We are a better people than what these laws represent, and it is time to discard them into the ash heap of history."

--U.S. District Judge John Jones' decision in Whitewood v. Wolf this month, which struck down Pennsylvania's gay marriage ban.

pennsylvania gay marriage

Just engaged Jefferson Rougeau, left, and Steven Creps, right, embrace on the steps of the state Capitol on May 20 in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)


"My decision will not be the final word on this subject, but on this issue of marriage I am struck more by our similarities than our differences. I believe that if we can look for a moment past gender and sexuality, we can see in these plaintiffs nothing more or less than our own families. Families who we would expect our Constitution to protect, if not exalt, in equal measure. With discernment we see not shadows lurking in closets or the stereotypes of what was once believed; rather, we see families committed to the common purpose of love, devotion, and service to the greater community.

"Where will all this lead? I know that many suggest we are going down a slippery slope that will have no moral boundaries. To those who truly harbor such fears, I can only say this: Let us look less to the sky to see what might fall; rather, let us look to each other ... and rise."

-- U.S. District Judge Michael McShane, who is openly gay, in his decision this month striking down Oregon's gay marriage ban.


"In attempting to define this case as a challenge to ‘the will of the people,’ state defendants lost sight of what this case is truly about: people. No court record of this proceeding could ever fully convey the personal sacrifice of these two plaintiffs who seek to ensure that the state may no longer impair the rights of their children and the thousands of others now being raised by same-sex couples. ... It is the court’s fervent hope that these children will grow up to ‘understand the integrity and closeness of their own family and its concord with other families in their community and in their daily lives.' Today’s decision is a step in that direction, and affirms the enduring principle that regardless of whoever finds favor in the eyes of the most recent majority, the guarantee of equal protection must prevail."

-- U.S. District Judge Bernard Friedman, who in March struck down Michigan's ban on same-sex marriage.

michigan gay marriage

A same-sex couple sign their marriage license after getting married by the Oakland County Clerk in a group ceremony at the Oakland County Courthouse on March 22, 2014 in Pontiac, Michigan. (Photo by Bill Pugliano/Getty Images).


"Equal protection is at the very heart of our legal system and central to our consent to be governed. It is not a scarce commodity to be meted out begrudgingly or in short portions. Therefore, the majority view in Oklahoma must give way to individual constitutional rights. The Bishop couple has been in a loving, committed relationships for many years. They own property together, wish to retire together, wish to make medical decisions for one another, and wish to be recognized as a married couple with all its attendant rights and responsibilities. Part A of the Oklahoma Constitutional Amendment excludes the Bishop couple, and all otherwise eligible same-sex couples, from this privilege without a legally sufficient justification."

-- U.S. District Court Judge Terence Kern, who in January struck down Oklahoma's ban on gay marriage.


"The Plaintiffs are entitled to extraordinary remedies because of their extraordinary injuries. Idaho’s Marriage Laws withhold from them a profound and personal choice, one that most can take for granted. By doing so, Idaho’s Marriage Laws deny same-sex couples the economic, practical, emotional, and spiritual benefits of marriage, relegating each couple to a stigmatized, second-class status. Plaintiffs suffer these injuries not because they are unqualified to marry, start a family, or grow old together, but because of who they are and whom they love."

-- U.S. Chief Magistrate Judge Candy Wagahoff Dale, in her ruling this month that Idaho's gay marriage ban was unconstitutional and denied gay and lesbians of their fundamental right to marriage.

idaho gay marriage

Gay marriage supporters hold up signs and rainbow flags for passing traffic at the Ada County Courthouse in Boise, Idaho, on May 16. (AP Photo/Otto Kitsinger)


"Our nation's uneven but dogged journey toward truer and more meaningful freedoms for our citizens has brought us continually to a deeper understanding of the first three words in our Constitution: we the people. We the People have become a broader, more diverse family than once imagined. If Justice has often been forged from fires of indignities and prejudices suffered. Our triumphs that celebrate the freedom of choice are hallowed. We have arrived upon another moment in history when We the People becomes more inclusive, and our freedom more perfect."

-- U.S. District Judge Arenda L. Wright Allen, who in February ruled against Virginia's gay marriage ban, making it the first state in the South to have its voter-approved prohibition overturned.


"Rather than protecting or supporting the families of opposite-sex couples, Amendment 3 perpetuates inequality by holding that the families and relationships of same-sex couples are not now, nor ever will be, worthy of recognition. Amendment 3 does not thereby elevate the status of opposite-sex marriage; it merely demeans the dignity of same-sex couples. And while the State cites an interest in protecting traditional marriage, it protects that interest by denying one of the most traditional aspects of marriage to thousands of its citizens: the right to form a family that is strengthened by a partnership based on love, intimacy, and shared responsibilities. The Plaintiffs’ desire to publicly declare their vows of commitment and support to each other is a testament to the strength of marriage in society, not a sign that, by opening its doors to all individuals, it is in danger of collapse."

-- U.S. District Judge Robert J. Shelby in a December ruling that the state's anti-gay marriage law was unconstitutional.

gay marriage

Plaintiffs Matthew Barraza, left, and his husband Tony Milner, right, look on as their son Jesse, 4, plays, during a news conference, in Salt Lake City. (AP Photo/Rick Bowmer)


"The exclusion of same-sex couples from marriage for no rational basis violates the fundamental right to privacy and equal protection as described in Jegley and Cole, supra. The difference between opposite-sex and same-sex families is within the privacy of their homes. ... It has been over forty years since Mildred Loving was given the right to marry the person of her choice. The hatred and fears have long since vanished and she and her husband lived full lives together; so it will be for the same-sex couples. It is time to let that beacon of freedom shine brighter on all our brothers and sisters. We will be stronger for it."

-- Pulaski County Circuit Judge Chris Piazza, striking down Arkansas' ban on same-sex marriage this month. Piazza is not a federal judge. The state Supreme Court later suspended his decision.


"Texas' current marriage laws deny homosexual couples the right to marry, and in doing so, demean their dignity for no legitimate reason. Accordingly, the Court find these laws are unconstitutional and hereby grants a preliminary injunction enjoining Defendants from enforcing Texas' ban on same-sex marriage."

-- U.S. District Judge Orlando Garcia, who in February ruled Texas' ban on gay marriage unconstitutional. Garcia immediately issued a stay of his order, meaning the ban will remain in effect until an appeal is decided.


"Even if there were proffered some attendant governmental purpose to discriminate against gay couples, other than to effect pure animus, it is difficult to imagine how it could outweigh the severe burden imposed by the ban imposed on same-sex couples legally married in other states. Families deserve the highest level of protection under the First Amendment right of association."

-- U.S. District Judge Timothy S. Black, who in April ruled Ohio must recognize same-sex marriages legally performed in other states.

ohio gay marriage

Longtime Cincinnati couple Karl Rece Jr., left, and Gary Goodman speak to media at a law firm in Cincinnati on April 30. They are among 12 plaintiffs named in a lawsuit to strike down Ohio's gay marriage ban and allow same-sex couples to marry in the state. (AP Photo/Amanda Lee Myers)



Gay Marriage In The United States