Marriage News Blog
Image: The Waite Court (1888)
It is well-established and crystal clear that the right to marry is a central aspect of the right to liberty, privacy, association, and identity.
Fourteen times since 1888, the United States Supreme Court has stated that marriage is a fundamental right of all individuals. In these cases, the Court has reaffirmed that “freedom of personal choice in matters of marriage” is “one of the liberties protected by the Due Process Clause,” “essential to the orderly pursuit of happiness by free men,” and “sheltered by the Fourteenth Amendment against the State’s unwarranted usurpation, disregard, or disrespect.”
Here is a list of the fourteen cases, with links to the opinions and citations to the Court’s discussion of the right to marry.
- Maynard v. Hill, 125 U.S. 190, 205, 211 (1888): Marriage is “the most important relation in life” and “the foundation of the family and society, without which there would be neither civilization nor progress.”
- Meyer v. Nebraska, 262 U.S. 390, 399 (1923): The right “to marry, establish a home and bring up children” is a central part of liberty protected by the Due Process Clause.
- Skinner v. Oklahoma ex rel. Williamson, 316 U.S. 535, 541 (1942): Marriage “one of the basic civil rights of man,” “fundamental to the very existence and survival of the race.”
- Griswold v. Connecticut, 381 U.S. 479, 486 (1965): “We deal with a right of privacy older than the Bill of Rights—older than our political parties, older than our school system. Marriage is a coming together for better or for worse, hopefully enduring, and intimate to the degree of being sacred. It is an association that promotes a way of life, not causes; a harmony in living, not political faiths; a bilateral loyalty, not commercial or social projects. Yet it is an association for as noble a purpose as any involved in our prior decisions.”
- Loving v. Virginia, 388 U.S. 1, 12 (1967): “The freedom to marry has long been recognized as one of the vital personal rights essential to the orderly pursuit of happiness by free men.”
- Boddie v. Connecticut, 401 U.S. 371, 376, 383 (1971): “[M]arriage involves interests of basic importance to our society” and is “a fundamental human relationship.”
- Cleveland Board of Education v. LaFleur, 414 U.S. 632, 639-40 (1974): “This Court has long recognized that freedom of personal choice in matters of marriage and family life is one of the liberties protected by the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment.”
- Moore v. City of East Cleveland, 431 U.S. 494, 499 (1977) (plurality): “[W]hen the government intrudes on choices concerning family living arrangements, this Court must examine carefully the importance of the governmental interests advanced and the extent to which they are served by the challenged regulation.”
- Carey v. Population Services International, 431 U.S. 678, 684-85 (1977): “[I]t is clear that among the decisions that an individual may make without unjustified government interference are personal decisions relating to marriage, procreation, contraception, family relationships, and child rearing and education.”
- Zablocki v. Redhail, 434 U.S. 374, 384 (1978): “[T]he right to marry is of fundamental importance for all individuals.”
- Turner v. Safley, 482 U.S. 78, 95 (1987): “[T]he decision to marry is a fundamental right” and an “expression[ ] of emotional support and public commitment.”
- Planned Parenthood of Southeastern Pennsylvania v. Casey, 505 U.S. 833, 851 (1992): “These matters, involving the most intimate and personal choices a person may make in a lifetime, choices central to personal dignity and autonomy, are central to the liberty protected by the Fourteenth Amendment. At the heart of liberty is the right to define one’s own concept of existence, of meaning, of the universe, and of the mystery of human life.”
- M.L.B. v. S.L.J., 519 U.S. 102, 116 (1996): “Choices about marriage, family life, and the upbringing of children are among associational rights this Court has ranked as ‘of basic importance in our society,’ rights sheltered by the Fourteenth Amendment against the State’s unwarranted usurpation, disregard, or disrespect.”
- Lawrence v. Texas, 539 U.S. 558, 574 (2003): “[O]ur laws and tradition afford constitutional protection to personal decisions relating to marriage, procreation, contraception, family relationships, and education. … Persons in a homosexual relationship may seek autonomy for these purposes, just as heterosexual persons do.”