People line up outside the Supreme Court in Washington April 26, 2015, ahead of arguments focusing on gay marriage.

2015 Reuters

(Washington, DC) – The United States Supreme Court should consider the same-sex marriage practices of other countries when it hears arguments in Obergefell v. Hodges on April 28, 2015, Human Rights Watch said today. In March, Human Rights Watch submitted an amicus (“friend of the court”) brief along with the New York City Bar Association and several nongovernmental organizations based in other countries.

“The Supreme Court will be hearing constitutional arguments about same-sex marriage, but the justices should be attuned to the acceptance of marriage equality abroad,” said Graeme Reid, lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) rights director at Human Rights Watch. “The experiences of countries where marriage equality is already a reality can bring a fuller understanding of what’s at stake.”

The case will consider whether the US Constitution requires US states to license two people of the same sex to marry. The brief asks the court to consider countries such as Argentina, Canada, the Netherlands, New Zealand, and South Africa, which provide marriage licenses or similar regulatory permission to people of the same sex to marry. In establishing these policies, the governments and courts of these countries weighed legal and constitutional questions similar to those now before the US Supreme Court. 

The court is expected to hand down its ruling in June.

“Despite many predictions to the contrary, in the 18 countries where same-sex marriage has been legalized, life has continued as before with greater respect for everyone’s rights,” Reid said.