From Stonewall to the Supreme Court, Here’s How Marriage Equality Landed at SCOTUS in 2015

Hayley Miller

This week, we mark one year since oral arguments in Obergefell v. Hodges were heard at the Supreme Court of the United States.

While the decision in the case, which was released on June 26, 2015, made marriage equality the law of the land, it tooks decades of hard work from LGBT and allied people, advocates and organizations across the nation to even get a case of this magnitude to the Supreme Court.

Most importantly, brave couples from all 50 states stood up, fought back against regressive, anti-LGBT laws and helped expand equal rights for all. They lived openly and honestly, sharing their stories of struggle and love with the nation, moving hearts and minds like never before. And some of them became plaintiffs -- and they fought all the way to the Supreme Court to ensure no one else would ever have to go through what they did.

While Obergefell v. Hodges originated in in Ohio, in January 2015, the Supreme Court announced that it would hear Obergefell’s case, which itself was a combination of several plaintiffs, along with other cases from Kentucky, Ohio, Michigan and Tennessee. The arguments were consolidated and the case was formally named Obergefell v. Hodges. Brave plaintiffs, including David Michener & William Herbert Ives, Robert Grunn, Nicole Yorksmith & Pamela Yorksmith, Joseph J. Vitale & Robert Talmas, Brittani Henry & Brittni Rogers, Kelly Noe & Kelly McCraken, Gregory Bourke & Michael DeLeon, Randell Johnson & Paul Campion, Jimmy Meade & Luther Barlowe, Kimberly Franklin & Tamera Boyd, Maurice Blanchard & Dominique James, Timothy Love & Lawrence Ysunza, Joy "Johno" Espejo & Matthew Mansell, Kellie Miller & Vanessa DeVillez , Sergeant Ijpe DeKoe & Thomas Kostura, Valeria Tanco & Sophia Jesty and April DeBoer & Jayne Rowse, were just some of the couples that fought for marriage equality in those states over the past several years.

In 2004, the first same-sex couples legally married in Massachusetts, which was the first state in

the nation to have marriage equality. While nine states followed slowly over the next eight years, eight states gained marriage equality in 2013. And on the heels of historic wins at the Supreme Court in Windsor and Perry in 2013, same-sex couples were able to secure marriage equality in 19 more states in 2014.

Heading into oral argument in Obergefell v. Hodges, 37 states and Washington, D.C., had marriage equality. But the benefits and protections of marriage were still out of reach for same-sex couples in 13 states.

In early 2015, shortly before oral arguments began, hundreds of thousands of Americans helped make a historic statement of support through  HRC’s People’s Brief. The People's Brief was an  amicus brief filed by HRC and Robbie Kaplan, lawyer for Edie Windsor, that enabled every American to show their support for nationwide marriage equality directly to the Supreme Court.

With 207,551 individuals calling for full nationwide marriage equality, the People's Brief had more signatories than any amicus brief ever submitted to the Supreme Court. With all of the signatures, each copy of the People's Brief was approximately 3,500 pages long, for a total of approximately 175,000 pages and 19 boxes. To meet the Supreme Court's deadline, it required four days of round-the-clock printing in order to complete 50 copies.

The People’s Brief was just one part of the incredible efforts the LGBT and allied community led over several decades to change public opinion around the country and bolster unprecedented support for marriage equality.

Stay tuned to HRC’s blog this week as we continue to highlight the historic case and the plaintiffs and advocates that helped bring it all the way to the Supreme Court.

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