On June 26, 2015, the United States Supreme Court delivered its landmark decision in Obergefell v. Hodges, which paved the way for marriage equality nationwide. This historic ruling came two years after another landmark court case, United States v. Windsor, which struck down Section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), ruling it as unconstitutional, and stopped limiting the legal definition of a marriage to be between "one man and one woman." The Windsor decision brought federal recognition to the marriages of same-sex couples, but did not yet make marriage accessible to all couples in all 50 states.
After United States v. Windsor, the ability for same-sex couples to marry was left to each individual state to decide. Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy, upon giving the opinion of the court in the Obergefell ruling, said, "[Same-sex couples] ask for equal dignity in the eyes of the law. The Constitution grants them that right," meaning the state-specific rulings of marriage equality were no longer needed, as it became a national question to which the answer was in favor of equality.
Despite this historic achievement for the LGBT community, marriage equality has remained a topic of debate amongst politicians and anti-LGBT activists. For example, Kim Davis, a County Clerk from Kentucky, refused to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples, despite the Obergefell ruling. Davis' incompliance with the law and the outpouring of support she received from politicians and like-minded folks make clear the needs to both defend marriage equality and to continuously build cultural acceptance for all LGBT people across the country.
Best practices for reporters
Share the stories of the committed couples whose lives and families are at the heart of this issue – and for whom the denial of marriage would threaten the security of their loved ones. The stories of same-sex couples and families are an integral and essential part of fair, accurate, and inclusive coverage about marriage equality.
Pitfalls to avoid
Do not state that marriage equality is the summation of the goals of the LGBT movement. Marraige equality is a milestone, not a finish line. Despite marriage being the law of the land, it does not provide complete protections for the LGBT community. Recent news has demonstrated that further protections are needed in employment, housing, health, and public accomodations.
Avoid equating marriage equality with full acceptance for LGBT people. Beneath the Supreme Court's ruling to a constitutional right to marriage equality nationwide lies a layer of uneasiness and discomfort among some Americans. While the public is increasingly embracing LGBT civil rights and equal protection under the law, many are still uncomfortable with having LGBT people in their families and the communities where they live. GLAAD's Accelerating Acceptance report showed significant levels of discomfort among Americans when interacting with LGBT people.
Avoid pitting people of faith against LGBT people. Being a person of faith and an LGBT person are not mutually exclusive. Do not presume or imply people who identify as LGBT are not also people of faith, and that faith leaders universally oppose marriage for same-sex couples or LGBT acceptance.
Resources for journalists