Marriage and Family Case Law Links



Michael J. Rosenfeld
Associate Professor
Department of Sociology
Stanford University

450 Serra Mall

Building 120

Stanford, CA 94305
(650) 723-3958

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This is a page I created to store links to important judicial decisions relating to marriage, family, and same-sex marriage, for my students and for myself. If you are looking for my home page, click below.

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Marriage and Family Case Law Links


 Legal Decisions relating to contraception and abortion:
*Poe v. Ullman, (web link)US Supreme Court 1961, letting stand Connecticut's ban on contraception, because no one had been prosecuted, but see Harlan's dissent which has been credited as the first clear exposition of privacy rights.
*Griswold v Connecticut, (web link) US Supreme Ct 1965 (the first supreme court ruling that famously cited individual privacy rights, struck down Connecticut's law which prevented even married couples from purchasing birth control).
*Eisenstadt v Baird, (web link) US Supreme Ct 1972 (struck down a Massachusetts law which had prevented unmarried persons from accessing birth control, thereby expanding the Griswold decision).
*Roe v Wade, (web link) US Supreme Ct 1973 (guaranteed abortion rights and forced all 50 states to legalize first trimester abortions, and second trimester abortions with some limitations).
*Planned Parenthood v. Casey,(web link)US Supreme Court 1992, upholding Roe.

Sodomy Cases:
*Doe v. Commonwealth's Attorney, (web link) US district court 1975 (upheld Virginia's anti-sodomy law), US Supreme court denied Cert on the appeal, so the lower court ruling stood.
*Bowers v Hardwick, (web link) US Supreme Ct, 1986 (upheld Georgia's anti-sodomy law).
*Lawrence v Texas, (web link) US Supreme Ct, 2003 (reversed the Bowers decision and struck down Texas's anti-sodomy law, and by extension all the state laws against sodomy).

Child Custody and other Guardianship Cases:
*Palmore v. Sidoti, (web link) 1984, U.S. Supreme Court ruled that (white) Linda Sidoti Palmore's remarriage to a black man was not grounds for her to lose custody of her daughter from her first marriage.
* In re Guardianship of Kowalski, (web link) a 1991 Minnesota case in which the parents of car accident victim Sharon Kowalski were initially given guardianship over Sharon, rather than sharon's lesbian partner who had no legal standing. Minnesota Court of Appeals eventually reversed and gave guardianship to the partner.
* In the Matter of Jacob (web link) was a 1995 NY state Court of Appeals decision, which gave unmarried partner parents (including same-sex partners) the right to cross adopt their partner's children.
*Burns v Burns, (web link) Georgia 2002, denying Susan Burns' Vermont Civil Union as a Marriage, and therefore denying her custody of her children.
*Bottoms v. Bottoms (web link), a Virginia custody case that turned, in part, on Sharon Bottoms' having had female partners, which the trial judge claimed made her an "unfit parent."

Marriage Cases:
*Perez v Sharp, (web link) California Supreme Ct 1948 (struck down California's anti-intermarriage law, and set a precedent for similar action in other states).
*Loving v Virginia, (web link) US Supreme Ct 1967 (struck down Virginia's law against racial intermarriage, helped establish marriage as a fundamental right, and by extension made all the state laws against interracial marriage unenforceable). Take a look at this interesting map of which states had laws against interracial marriage, and when.
* Baker v Nelson, (web link) Minnesota 1971, a case in which the Minnesota Supreme Court rejected Baker's claim that his inability to marry his male partner in Minnesota was unconstitutional. The Minnesota Supreme Court noted the dictionary definition of marriage as relating to couples of the opposite sex. Baker appealed to the US Supreme Court, which rejected his appeal "for want of a Federal question," which for a while established the precedent that the US Supreme Court did not recognize same-sex marriage as a constitutional right.
*Three cases in a series whereby Adams and Sullivan have their Colorado same-sex marriage denied, and therefore Sullivan's right to stay in the US also denied: Adams v. Howerton 1980, Adams v. Howerton 1982, and Sullivan v. INS 1985 (web link; and note Pregerson's dissent). See also this news report.
*Turner v Safley, (web link) US Supreme Ct 1987 (found, among other things, that prisoners had an inalienable right to marry).
*Baehr v Miike, Hawaii trial, 1996 (the first trial of same-sex marriage rights where the state had to meet a high standard of evidence for why they wanted to deny same-sex couples the right to marry; the court's decision was a victory for same-sex couples).
*Brause v. Bureau of Vital Statistics 1998, Alaska state case supported same-sex marriage plaintiffs but was over-ruled by state referendum banning same-sex marriage.
*Baehr v Miike, Hawaii reversal after state constitutional amendment, 1999 (after the state of Hawaii passed a constitutional amendment to make same-sex marriage illegal in Hawaii).
*Baker v State, Vermont, 2000 (the decision that forced Vermont to adopt same-sex union rights for gay couples).
*In Re Gardiner, (web link) Kansas, 2002 (the decision that voided that marriage of Gardiner and Ball because of Ball's previous sex change).
*Goodridge v Dept Public Health, MA 2003 (the decision that forced Massachusetts to adopt full marriage equality for same-sex couples).
*Varnum v Brien, Iowa 2009 (the decision that has brought marriage equality to Iowa).
*US v Windsor, (web link) US Supreme Ct 2013. The 5-4 decision that overturned section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act, which had prevented the US federal government from recognizing same-sex marriages that were legally entered into in the states or or in other countries. The American Sociological Association issued an important amicus brief in the Windsor case, explaining the social science consensus that children raised by same-sex couples are at no disadvantage.
*Obergefell v Hodges, (web link) US Supreme Ct 2015. This 5-4 decision made same-sex marriage legal in all 50 states.

A selection of Marriage cases post Windsor leading up to the the Supreme Court's Obergefell decision in 2015. See also this helpful gay marriage timeline.
* Griego v Oliver, New Mexico 2013. This unanimous decision in New Mexico's Supreme Court cleared the way for same-sex marriage in New Mexico.
* Kitchen v Herbert, US District Court in Utah, 2013. This federal court decision overturned Utah's state constitutional ban on same-sex marriage, and the district court decision was upheld by the Federal 10th district court of appeals. Since the US Supreme Court refused on October 6, 2014 to hear Utah's appeal of the 10th circuit's decision, Utah (and the rest of circuits 4, 7, and 10) became same-sex marriage states.
* Bishop v Oklahoma, US District Court in Oklahoma struck down Oklahoma's ban on same-sex marriage, following appeals, Oklahoma became a same-sex marriage state in 2014.
* Bostic v Rainey, US District Court in Virginia, 2014, overturning Virginia's ban on same-sex marriage; the district court decision was upheld on appeal by the 4th circuit, and same-sex marriage is now the law in Virginia.
* De Leon v. Perry, US District Court in Texas, 2014, overturning Texas's ban on same-sex marriage.
* DeBoer v. Snyder, US District Court in Michigan, 2014, overturning Michigan's ban on same-sex marriage. This was the only one of the post-Windsor cases to have a trial, and I was privileged to participate as a witness. The appellate court overturned the trial judge's decision, but not his findings of fact. I participated in this case as an expert witness. DeBoer-related documents are here.
* Whitewood v. Wolf, US District Court in Pennsylvania, 2014, overturning Pennsylvania's ban on same-sex marriage, making Pennsylvania a same-sex marriage state.
* Robicheaux v. Caldwell, a 2014 US District Court decision that was the first of more than 20 federal court decisions to uphold a state ban against same-sex marriage, in this case the Louisiana state ban, which was subsequently reversed by the Supreme Courtís Obergefell decision.
* The 7th circuit court of appeals decision, written by conservative scholar and judge Richard Posner, affirming (in an emphatic way) lower court decisions which had struck down Indiana's and Wisconsin's same-sex marriage bans. State appeals to the US Supreme Court were denied, so Indiana and Wisconsin became same-sex marriage states. See also the 9th circuit appeals decision, overturning Idaho and Nevada's bans on same-sex marriage.

The Four California same-sex marriage cases:
*Lockyer v. San Francisco, California 2004 (ordering San Francisco to stop marrying same-sex couples and nullifying the marriage of same-sex couples at San Francisco city hall until the court could rule on the constitutionality of California's same-sex marriage ban).
*In Re Marriage Cases, California, 2008 (deciding that California's same-sex marriage ban was inconsistent with California's constitution, forcing the state to allow same-sex couples to marry)
*Strauss v Horton, California 2009 (acknowledging the legality of Proposition 8, which amended the California constitution to redefine marriage as only between a man and a woman, but the decision also upheld the legality of the same-sex marriages performed in California in 2008).
*Perry v. Schwarzenegger, US district court 2010, overturning California's Proposition 8, because it violated US constitutional protections. The state of California declined to appeal the ruling, but private parties took up the appeal. In a 2013 decision (issued June 26, 2013), Hollingsworth v Perry, the US Supreme Court decided that the private parties did not have the standing to appeal the decision, so the district court trial decision stands, and Proposition 8 has been overturned.

Other Relevant Cases:
*ONE v Olesen 1958, a one sentence unsigned US Supreme Court reversal of a 9th circuit decision. By reversing, the US Supreme Court allowed gay magazine ONE to publish and to use the mails. See also Manual v. Day, (web link) 1962, which was a full signed decision, establishing that homosexuality in content was not the same as indecency.
*Boutilier v. INS, (web link here) 1967, US Supreme Court, upholding the INS exclusion of homosexuals as migrants to the U.S. Note Douglas's dissent. Congress overturned the immigration ban on homosexuals in 1990.
*Two Navy dismissal cases, Beller v. Middendorf 1980 (decision by Kennedy) and Dronenburg v. Zech (1984, decision by Bork). An Army dismissal case, Watkins v. US Army 1988, with an interesting opinion from the 9th circuit about immutability of homosexuality, and its relationship to homosexuals being a protected class.
Romer v Evans, (web link) US Supreme Court 1996. An important Supreme Court decision that struck down Colorado Amendment 2, which had been passed by state referendum. Amendment 2 had invalidated all local Colorado measures that protected gays and lesbians against discrimination. In a 6-3 decision, Anthony Kennedy wrote that Colorado's Amendment 2 put homosexuals in a solitary class and imposed a special legal disability upon them, which violated the US constitution's 14th Amendment.
*Boy Scouts v. Dale 2000 (web link), in which the US Supreme Court found that the Boy Scouts had the right to dismiss gay scout leader Dale, but note Stevens' dissent.
* Masterpiece Cakeshop 2018 (web link), in which the US Supreme Court found that a Colorado baker had the right to refuse to make a wedding cake for a same-sex couple, despite a finding from the Colorado Civil Rights Commission that the baker's act had been discriminatory.