Marriage “Halfway House”: Is There Middle Ground in the Supreme Court’s Same-Sex Marriage Journey?


It’s the final week of the Supreme Court’s 2015 term. And although there are seven cases still to be decided by the justices, many Americans are eagerly awaiting the court’s decision in the same-sex marriage cases, Obergefell v. Hodges, No. 14-556.

But while everyone is waiting to hear whether same-sex marriage will be legalized in all 50 states, or whether states can legally ban same-sex couples from getting married, there’s a third possibility that gets little attention.

That’s whether states that ban same-sex marriage can also refuse to recognize marriages that were validly entered into in other states.

I sat down with NYU’s Kenji Yoshino, who “sets the table” on this often overlooked recognition issue.

The question is whether those marriages are still valid in states that ban same-sex marriage, or whether they “fade out like a radio signal” as you cross the state line, Yoshino said.

Although the issue could provide what Yoshino called a “halfway house” between two opposite positions—requiring all states to recognize same-sex marriage and letting each state decide for itself—ultimately Yoshino concludes that the recognition question is a “non-starter.”

All the oxygen went out of the room when the court heard that issue during oral argument, Yoshino said.

Hear him explain why in this podcast. Enjoy!

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