June 26, 2015

The US Supreme Court, in its historic move that legalized same-sex marriage across the United States, agreed with and cited an amicus brief filed by Jenner & Block.  The 5-4 opinion in Obergefell v. Hodges, written for the majority by Justice Anthony M. Kennedy, held that the Constitution guarantees a right to same-sex marriage.  Of the couples challenging state bans on same-sex marriage, Justice Kennedy wrote that “it would misunderstand these men and women to say they disrespect the idea of marriage.  Their plea is that they do respect it, respect it so deeply that they seek to find its fulfillment for themselves.  Their hope is not to be condemned to live in loneliness, excluded from one of civilization’s oldest institutions.  They ask for equal dignity in the eyes of the law.  The Constitution grants them that right.”  In citing the firm’s amicus brief, filed on behalf of the American Psychological Association and other groups, the opinion observed that “only in more recent years have psychiatrists and others recognized that sexual orientation is both a normal expression of human sexuality and immutable.”  The brief was authored by Partner Paul M. Smith, chair of the firm’s Appellate and Supreme Court Practice, with the assistance of Associate Emily Chapuis.

The amicus brief is the most recent expression of the firm’s longstanding commitment to LGBT equality.  For many years, the firm has been on the cutting edge in advocating for same-sex marriage and other LGBT causes across the United States.  In 2003, Mr. Smith successfully argued before the Court in the groundbreaking Lawrence v. Texas case, which resulted in the Court striking down same-sex anti-sodomy laws.  Our involvement in Lawrence led to the firm’s role as co-counsel in Gill v. Office of Personnel Management in 2012, the first major challenge to the federal Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA).  As the United States’ first federal court of appeals decision overturning DOMA, Gill laid the foundation for the Court’s 2013 decision nullifying the provision of the Act that defined marriage as between a man and a woman.  Last year, as momentum picked up in the campaign for same-sex marriage, the firm served as co-counsel in a successful move to repeal bans on same-sex marriage in the Fourth Circuit, which encompasses Maryland, North Carolina, South Carolina, Virginia and West Virginia.