Supreme Court Counters Landmark Gay Marriage Ruling, Sotomayor Warns

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Supreme Court Counters Landmark Gay Marriage Ruling,

Impact on Obergefell v. Hodges and Future of Same-Sex Marriage

By Rachel Dobkin, Weekend Reporter

Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor, known for her liberal stance, voiced concerns that the Court’s recent decision in the case Department of State v. Muñoz undermines the landmark ruling in Obergefell v. Hodges, which legalized same-sex marriage across the United States. She warned that this could have detrimental effects on same-sex couples.

Case Overview : Department of State v. Muñoz

On Friday, the Supreme Court ruled 6-3 against Sandra Muñoz, an American citizen challenging the denial of a visa for her husband, Luis Asencio-Cordero, by a consular officer. The U.S. consulate in San Salvador denied the visa, citing Asencio-Cordero’s alleged affiliation with the MS-13 gang but did not provide specific reasons for the denial. As Asencio-Cordero is not a U.S. citizen, he lacks the constitutional right to enter the country and thus cannot compel the consular officer to explain the denial or contest it.

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Muñoz’s Argument and the Court’s Response

Muñoz argued that her Fifth Amendment rights were violated, asserting that the right to live with her noncitizen spouse in the U.S. is implicit in the “liberty” protected by the amendment. She contended that the visa denial deprived her of this liberty without due process, as the consular officer did not disclose the reason for finding Asencio-Cordero inadmissible, which she argued should enable judicial review of the visa denial.

Justice Amy Coney Barrett, writing for the majority, refuted Muñoz’s argument. Barrett stated that Muñoz’s claim hinges on the idea that the right to bring her noncitizen spouse to the U.S. is an unenumerated constitutional right. To validate this, she must prove it is deeply rooted in American history and tradition, referencing the 1997 case Washington v. Glucksberg. Barrett concluded that Muñoz could not make this showing, pointing out Congress’s long-standing regulation of spousal immigration, including bars on admissibility.

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Dissenting Opinion : Sotomayor’s Concerns

In her dissent, joined by Justices Elena Kagan and Ketanji Brown Jackson, Sotomayor invoked the Obergefell v. Hodges decision, which affirmed the right to same-sex marriage. She argued that the majority’s decision contradicts the principles upheld in Obergefell regarding fundamental rights of marriage and intimacy.

Sotomayor emphasized that forcing Muñoz to live with her husband in El Salvador, thus raising their U.S.-citizen child outside the country, places an unfair burden on the family. She highlighted that this burden disproportionately affects same-sex couples and others who cannot, for legal or financial reasons, establish a home in the noncitizen spouse’s country of origin.

Legal Precedent and Broader Implications

Sotomayor suggested that the case could have been resolved based on narrower grounds under existing precedent, specifically citing the 1972 case Kleindienst v. Mandel. In that case, the Court acknowledged that excluding a noncitizen can burden the constitutional rights of citizens seeking their presence, as long as the exclusion is justified by a “facially legitimate and bona fide reason.” Sotomayor argued that the consular officer’s belief in Asencio-Cordero’s MS-13 affiliation, regardless of its validity, meets this criterion.

Instead, Sotomayor criticized the majority for opting for a broad ruling on marriage over a procedural one. She asserted that the government should at least provide a factual basis for its decision when excluding a citizen’s spouse, as the burden on the right to marriage warrants such transparency.

Conclusion: A Respectful Dissent

Justice Sotomayor concluded her dissent by underscoring the importance of recognizing that excluding a citizen’s spouse imposes a significant burden on the right to marriage. She maintained that this burden necessitates the government to furnish a factual justification for its exclusion decisions, emphasizing her respectful dissent to the majority’s ruling.

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