Same-Sex Marriage Ruling Could Prompt More Prison Weddings


The vast majority of prisoners in the U.S. are men. Will the Supreme Court’s same-sex marriage decision lead to a demand to recognize such unions behind prison walls? So suggests Ohio State University law Prof. Douglas Berman in his Sentencing Law and Policy blog, noting that Oklahoma had halted prison weddings awaiting the high court decision. In 1987, the Supreme Court in a case called Turner v. Safley said that “legitimate security concerns may require placing reasonable restrictions upon an inmate’s right to marry.”

In the same case, Berman says, the court “rigorously questioned …Missouri officials’ rationales for strict limits on prisoner marriages and concluded that an ‘almost complete ban on the decision to marry is not reasonably related to legitimate penological objectives.’ ” Berman concludes that prison officials may not ban same-sex marriages. Justice Antonin Scalia joined the opinion written by Justice Sandra Day O’Connor striking down the Missouri prison’s “almost complete ban on the decision to marry.”

Comments are closed.