Supreme Court Legalizes Same-Sex Marriage

June 26th 2015 marked a momentous day for law in the United States. The nation joined twenty others in the world to legally recognize same-sex marriage, or more specifically, oppose the denial of same-sex marriage under the Fourteenth Amendment of the US Constitution. The famed Equal Protection Clause of that amendment guarantees that “no state shall deny to any person within its jurisdiction “the equal protection of the laws.”

Final paragraph of Justice Kennedy's majority opinionlegalizing same-sex marriage

Final paragraph of Justice Kennedy’s majority opinionlegalizing same-sex marriage

The journey for marriage equality can easily be traced back decades, and perhaps longer. In fact, in the early 1970’s then-students Richard Baker and James McConnell used the the legal system to dispute the denial of a marriage license in Minnesota because both spouses-to-be were both men. The case there actually did reach the inboxes of Supreme Court Justices via appeal, but at that time the Justices chose not hear the case for lack of a substantial federal question. (Note: denial of a ‘writ of certiorari’, i.e. Supreme Court’s deference to pass on a case, is overwhelmingly common—and they are known to hear upwards of 100 cases, of over 7000 petitioned each year)

Fast forward nearly a half-century, and the Supreme Court not only agreed to hear the landmark case of Obergefell v. Hodges, but indeed the Justices overturned and created law with their opinion. Where 37 US states have passed some form of marriage equality act, the single decision of the Supreme Court on a summer day at the end of June 2015, powerfully set precedence that supersedes state law on the subject.

By the numbers, there are reportedly well over 250,000 married same-sex couples in the United States.

Another Story of Law and Impact : Hybrid Legal Structures for Mission-Driven Business

Much of the impetus behind Innov8social’s initial launch four years ago was to follow, share, and explore the passage of another, and very different law. In 2011, two pieces of landmark legislation was introduced in California that introduced a completely new legal structure for companies seeking to pursue profit and create impact. California was the first state to introduce two of these hybrid legal structures and the 6th state to introduce benefit corporation.

Fast forward four years, and benefit corporation legislation has passed in 27 states and 28 jurisdictions (i.e. D.C.), including corporate-law stronghold Delaware.

By the numbers, there are reportedly well over 250 incorporated benefit corporations in the United States.

Law Creates Impact as Mirror and Mast

And all of this, has me thinking and reflecting. On law. And its chameleon roles as mirror and mast.

Sometimes law can provide foresight on a way to steer impact, such as is afforded from the vantage point from mast of a ship, as benefit corporations do in creating new pathways for companies to account for, consider, and report impact. At other times, law is the mirror reflecting powerful shifts in consciousness and realizations about equality and justice that are well underway, as with same-sex marriage.

From an impact lens, these dual natures of law can provide the push and pull to forge new pathways for social impact and far-reaching change.

And, the discrepancies are also a reminder that a story of impact does not begin or end with the passage of law—it continues around, within, and through it.


Sources and Further Reading

Supreme Court Opinion, Obergefell v. Hodges PDF [SupremeCourt.Gov]

Same-sex marriage in the United States [Wikpedia]

The Beautiful Closing Paragraph of Justice Kennedy’s Gay Marriage Ruling [Slate]

2 Social Enterprise Bills in California: Key Features of AB 361 and SB 201 [Innov8social]

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