Same-Sex Marriage Legal In 50 States & How To Open Dialogue About It At Your Firm

States must recognize unions of same-sex couples, the Supreme Court ruled today.

In a 5-4 decision in Obergefell v. Hodges, it was Justice Anthony Kennedy who was considered the pivotal swing vote in the case. In the end, he wrote the majority opinion (via NPR).

The four justices—Chief Justice John Roberts and Justices Antonin Scalia, Clarence Thomas, and Samuel Alito—who voted against the ruling each wrote dissenting opinions.

Keep in mind, before today’s landmark ruling, gay marriage was already legal in 36 states and the District of Columbia by legislative or voter action; or by federal courts that overturned state’ bans (see a chart on NPR.org).

Summarizing our legal process, the courts explained:

“Well into the 20th century, many States condemned same-sex intimacy as immoral, and homosexuality was treated as an illness. Later in the century, cultural and political developments allowed same-sex couples to lead more open and public lives. Extensive public and private dialogue followed, along with shifts in public attitudes. Questions about the legal treatment of gays and lesbians soon reached the courts, where they could be discussed in the formal discourse of the law.”

In polls, support for same-sex marriage is at an all time high.

Interestingly, about three-quarters (73%) of those who say they personally know a lot of gays and lesbians favor same-sex marriage; whereas a majority (59%) of those who know no gays or lesbians oppose same-sex marriage, according to Pew Research Center.

One of the leading factors in determining support for same-sex marriage (outside religious beliefs) is political alignment. According to the same polls, 65% of Democrats and an identical percentage of independents favor gay marriage. However, only about one third (34%) of Republicans favor it, reports Pew.

Therefore, depending on where your law firm is located, and the political composition of your employees, this might become a point of contention or at least conversation.

Maintaining a positive and supportive culture within your firm is just as important as being prepared for the transition of your workplace and human resources policies given this ruling.

Control workplace gossip and negative opinion, if there is any. While Justice Roberts has the right to speak out in dissent, it’ll likely breed resentment and hostility inside your firm.

Need help? Take C4CM’s audio course “Managing the Most Difficult People at Work: 15 Cornerstones for Handling Constructive Confrontations” to gain tips and tricks for knowing what to say on a potentially divisive subject.

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