Monday, June 29, 2015
The Supreme Court ruled on Friday that same-sex marriage is a fundamental right under the 14th Amendment of the Constitution in a decision that was universally portrayed in media coverage as the culmination of a dramatic change in public opinion on the issue. President Obama hailed the ruling in Obergefell v. Hodges as a victory for equality, while opponents of the decision expressed great disappointment, and in some cases a willingness to resist implementing the ruling. The major print dailies all ran multiple stories that delved into the ruling in great depth, and the three broadcast networks combined for 21 minutes of coverage.
The Washington Post (6/27, Barnes, 5.03M) reports the Supreme Court on Friday “delivered a historic victory for gay rights” with a 5 to 4 ruling that “the Constitution requires that same-sex couples be allowed to marry no matter where they live.” According to the Post, the decision “marks the culmination of an unprecedented upheaval in public opinion and the nation’s jurisprudence.” Roll Call (6/26, Ruger, 99K) noted the ruling says “same-sex couple have the fundamental right to marry,” and has the impact of “end[ing] the state-by-state patchwork of legality where it comes to same-sex weddings and which states recognize such unions.”
In the court’s 28-page opinion, according to USA Today (6/27, Wolf, Heath, 5.01M), Justice Anthony Kennedy writes, “They ask for equal dignity in the eyes of the law. The Constitution grants them that right.” Kennedy added, “The past alone does not rule the present. The nature of injustice is that we do not always see it in our own time.” The Los Angeles Times (6/27, Savage, Phelps, 4.03M) reports the opinion states the “right to marry is a fundamental right inherent to the liberty of a person” and “under the due process and equal protection clauses of the 14th Amendment, couples of the same sex may not be deprived of that right and that liberty.”
The AP (6/27) reports Obama on Friday said the decision “made our union a little more perfect” as he praised the Court for the ruling. While speaking in the Rose Garden, Obama said, “This decision affirms what millions of Americans already believe in their hearts.” ABC World News (6/26, story 2, 3:40, Muir, 5.84M) showed Obama saying, “When all Americans are treated as equal we are all more free.” Politico (6/26, Gerstein, 1.11M) reported that Obama had earlier tweeted, “Today is a big step in our march toward equality. Gay and lesbian couples now have the right to marry, just like anyone else. #LoveWins.”
In a story that includes the words “Zeal of a convert” in its headline, the Washington Times (6/27, Boyer, 641K) reports on the evolution of the President’s position on gay marriage. The Times notes Obama said during the 2008 presidential campaign that he did not support same-sex marriage, and “publicly opposed” it until 2012. In statements that the Wall Street Journal (6/27, Tau, Subscription Publication, 5.68M) connects to his previous opposition, Obama said during his post-ruling statement that the subject remains controversial. The President said, “Real change is possible. Shifts in hearts and minds is possible.”
On NBC Nightly News (6/26, story 2, 3:10, Holt, 7.86M), Pete Williams reported on the ruling’s likely lasting impact when he said, “It could be undone, but only by a constitutional amendment or by a future Supreme Court that changes its mind and neither of those seems at all likely.”
Bloomberg News (6/27, Stohr, 3.81M) notes the case “involved 31 people from Ohio, Michigan, Tennessee and Kentucky.” A Federal appeals court “ruled against gay weddings, saying changes to marriage laws should come through the political process,” rather than the judicial system. However, Kennedy “rejected that reasoning, saying the democratic process must give way to the Constitution.” Kennedy wrote that “individuals need not await legislation before asserting a fundamental right,” adding the court system is “open to injured individuals who came to them to vindicate their own direct, personal stake in our basic charter.” The Huffington Post (6/26, Liebelson, 194K) reported the “lead plaintiff” in the case is Ohio resident Jim Obergefell, “who wanted to be listed as the surviving spouse on his husband’s death certificate.”