Acting as a Friend of the Court: Marriage Equality

With its June 26 decision in Obergefell v. Hodges, the Supreme Court struck down laws prohibiting same-sex marriage in a landmark victory for civil rights. And in the majority opinion, the court cited a 23-page section of one of Hogan Lovells' two supportive amicus curiae briefs in holding that same-sex couples have a constitutional right to marry.

Our representation of amici in support of marriage equality began with the 2013 United States v. Windsor and Hollingsworth v. Perry Supreme Court cases, where we represented multiple amici in support of marriage equality. We continued to represent clients throughout 2014 and into 2015 in the quest for marriage equality in various circuit courts of appeals, and ultimately again before the Supreme Court.

In November 2014, a divided panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit upheld several state bans on same-sex marriage or on recognizing same-sex marriages performed in other states. The Supreme Court granted certiorari in those consolidated cases, the lead of which was Obergefell. Hogan Lovells filed two amicus curiae briefs with the Supreme Court, highlighting the importance of marriage equality from the perspectives of history and public health.

The first brief was filed on behalf of the Organization of American Historians. It detailed the long and continuing history of discrimination against gay men and lesbians, from the colonial period until today, and explained how state same-sex marriage bans were simply more recent iterations of that longstanding discrimination.

The second brief was filed on behalf of American Public Health Association and Whitman-Walker Health. The brief highlighted the growing body of social science that has linked discriminatory marriage policies with adverse mental and physical health effects on lesbian, gay, and bisexual individuals.

On June 26, 2015, the Supreme Court reversed the Sixth Circuit, finding that gays and lesbians enjoyed a constitutional right to marry. The court cited a lengthy span of the Historians' brief in its 5-4 majority opinion.

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