As Arizona personal injury lawyers, we always keep a pulse on significant personal injury, contract, and Constitutional case law. As lawyers, and, more significantly, as human beings, we have all been waiting for the decision that came down today. We love to see when the Supreme Court acknowledges that everyone one has rights, in any area. Individual rights are the foundation of our country, lives, and personal injury law.
1. The Equal Protection Clause is Broad and Powerful
The Equal Protection Clause is found at the end of the Fourteenth Amendment. The context of the entire Fourteenth Amendment gives the Equal Protection Clause its significance.
"All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside. No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws."
You have to remember that the Fourteenth Amendment was passed in the days after the Civil War. Our country had been torn apart by civil war and a large group of people (those of African descent) were not afforded equal protection under the law. In fact, there were hundreds of laws on the books that explicitly treated people of African descent differently than those of European descent.
It took us another 150 years to formally apply the equal protection clause to same-sex couples. When a baby is born, it is not as if he or she is wearing a bracelet identifying oneself as homosexual. Race is often a lot easier to distinguish.
Still, the drafters of the Fourteenth Amendment were careful to not limit the scope of the freedom it guarantees. Like the Constitution, it uses broad language (i.e., “any person”). Refusing certain legal benefits to people who identify as homosexual just doesn’t comport with the powerful language of the Equal Protection Clause.
2. Our Religious Freedom is Absolute
Many pundits have said that the marriage equality movement is an attack on religious freedom. What they really mean is that marriage equality is an attack on Judeo-Christian religious freedom. I disagree. Nothing in today’s landmark decision limits the freedom of Jews, Muslims or Christians to practice their religion how ever they see fit. The Supreme Court is never going to force churches to perform gay marriage ceremonies. It just isn’t going to happen. In fact, Judeo-Christian people should be celebrating this decision, because it confirms that people in this country still and hopefully always will be allowed to practice whatever religion they desire. That was the goal of the founding fathers. They understood that religion and government are best not mixed. The First Amendment clearly states that, “The Congress shall make no law respecting the establishment of religion…” Preventing LGBT folks from getting married (and enjoying all of the legal benefits and privileges) was an attempt to force Judeo-Christian religious values on people through the law. That isn’t American.
3. Individual Liberty for All People
I, for one, do not want the government involved in my marriage. My marriage is a private bond between my wife and I. The fact that we chose a Christian marriage ceremony was a personal decision. I am glad the government had virtually no control over the nature of our marriage and I hope it stays that way. Our society works best when people are allowed to exercise individual liberty in every way reasonably possible.
Individual rights are the bedrock of Arizona personal injury law. We fight for individual rights every day. If we can ever help you out, please let us know.