Time to say 'I do'

supreme court hears mar­riage ar­gu­ments.

GA Voice - - Front Page - By LISA KEEN — Dyana Bagby con­trib­uted

The first ques­tion from the U.S. Supreme Court bench April 28 was about the rights of states to reg­u­late mar­riage, and though at­tor­neys for same-sex cou­ples tried nu­mer­ous times to re­fo­cus at­ten­tion to the dam­age that bans on same-sex mar­riage in­flict on the rights of LGBT peo­ple, the fo­cus stayed largely on states’ rights through­out the his­toric ar­gu­ment.

For two and a half hours—more than twice the time most cases get—an an­i­mated bench grilled at­tor­neys for same-sex cou­ples and the four states that seek to ban their mar­riages.

Jus­tices Ruth Bader Gins­burg, So­nia So­tomayor, Elena Ka­gan, and Stephen Breyer asked most of the tough ques­tions to chal­lenge the gov­ern­men­tal in­ter­est served by ban­ning same­sex cou­ples from mar­riage. Chief Jus­tice John Roberts and Jus­tices An­tonin Scalia and Sa­muel Al­ito asked most of the tough ques­tions to par­ties seek­ing to strike down those bans. Per his rou­tine, Jus­tice Clarence Thomas asked no ques­tions, and true to his role as the court’s most un­pre­dictable vote, Jus­tice An­thony Kennedy asked tough ques­tions of both sides.

The packed court­room’s au­di­ence was equally lively, laugh­ing fre­quently, ap­plaud­ing once, and at one point, a man at the back of the court­room jumped up and be­gan rant­ing loudly and in­ces­santly about the Bi­ble and “abom­i­na­tions” and say­ing that gays would “burn in hell.” Such out­bursts have oc­curred in the court re­cently on other is­sues and the man’s dis­rup­tion seemed well-timed, given that it did not in­ter­rupt any at­tor­ney’s al­lot­ted time be­fore the bench.

But, as is also rou­tine, the jus­tices en­gaged in a great deal of in­ter­rupt­ing at­tor­neys through­out the pro­ceed­ing.

Barely a minute into Gay & Les­bian Ad­vo­cates & De­fend­ers’ Mary Bo­nauto’s open­ing com­ments about how laws ban­ning same-sex cou­ples from mar­ry­ing con­vey a “stain of un­wor­thi­ness,” Jus­tice Ruth Bader Gins­burg asked how the “fed­eral gov­ern­ment’s his­toric def­er­ence to states when it comes to mat­ters of do­mes­tic re­la­tions” should in­flu­ence the court’s de­ci­sion on whether the state bans are un­con­sti­tu­tional.

In ask­ing her ques­tion, Gins­burg re­ferred to the court’s 2013 land­mark de­ci­sion in U.S. v. Wind­sor, in which the court em­pha­sized states’ rights to reg­u­late mar­riage as it struck down the key pro­vi­sion of the fed­eral De­fense of Mar­riage Act (DOMA), which had pro­hib­ited the fed­eral gov­ern­ment from rec­og­niz­ing mar­riages li­censed to same-sex cou­ples in some states.

“States do have pri­macy over do­mes­tic re­la­tions ex­cept that their laws must re­spect the con­sti­tu­tional rights of per­sons, and Wind­sor couldn’t have been clearer about that,” said Bo­nauto. “And here we have a whole class of peo­ple who are de­nied the equal right to be able to join in this very ex­ten­sive gov­ern­ment in­sti­tu­tion that pro­vides pro­tec­tion for fam­i­lies.”

Chief Jus­tice John Roberts jumped on Bo­nauto’s choice of words, say­ing same-sex cou­ples weren’t seek­ing the right to “join” mar­riage but to “re­de­fine” it. The com­ment echoed his re­marks in 2013 and hinted early on that Roberts is not a likely vote in fa­vor of strik­ing down state bans on same-sex mar­riage.

Kennedy jumped in next, first not­ing that it has been about 10 years since the Supreme Court struck down sodomy laws—a length of time com­pa­ra­ble to when the court struck down state man­dated racial seg­re­ga­tion of schools and when it struck down state laws ban­ning in­ter­ra­cial mar­riages. It was an ini­tial ray of hope that Kennedy was head­ing in the di­rec­tion of strik­ing down state laws. But then he com­pared 10 years to the “mil­len­nia” of years dur­ing which peo­ple thought of mar­riage as be­ing be­tween a man and a woman.

“This def­i­ni­tion has been with us for mil­len­nia. And it—it’s very dif­fi­cult for the Court to say, ‘Oh, well, we know bet­ter’.”

Jus­tice Scalia soon en­tered the fray to say the ques­tion “is not whether there should be same­sex mar­riage, but who should de­cide the point.”

“And you’re ask­ing us to de­cide it for this so­ci­ety when no other so­ci­ety un­til 2001 ever had it,” Scalia told Bo­nauto.

Jus­tice Al­ito took the dis­cus­sion back even fur­ther than Gins­burg and Scalia, to an­cient Greece, not­ing that same-sex re­la­tion­ships were ac­cepted then but that there were no mar­riages be­tween same-sex cou­ples.

“So their lim­it­ing mar­riage to cou­ples of the op­po­site sex was not based on prej­u­dice against gay peo­ple, was it?” asked Al­ito.

Fully ex­pect Ge­or­gia to be brought into fold

What the Supreme Court de­cides in June will mean whether LGBT cou­ples in Ge­or­gia will fi­nally have the right to marry in their home state. Ge­or­gia is one of the last states in the coun­try to still have a con­sti­tu­tional ban in place pro­hibit­ing same-sex mar­riage.

An­thony Kreis, an openly gay Uni­ver­sity of Ge­or­gia con­sti­tu­tional scholar, said he is loath to make pre­dic­tions on how the Supreme Court will rule based on oral ar­gu­ments.

But some points stuck out for him while lis­ten­ing to the au­dio of Tues­day’s ar­gu­ments.

“On the whole, the ar­gu­ments in fa­vor of the cou­ples were cer­tainly stronger. There were far less weak mo­ments for Mary Bo­nauto and the solic­i­tor gen­eral [U.S. Solic­i­tor Gen­eral Don­ald Ver­rilli],” he said.

The states’ at­tor­neys ar­gu­ing to keep same­sex mar­riage bans in place did not fare well, ac­cord­ing to Kreis, es­pe­cially with their ar­gu­ments that mar­riage is for pro­cre­ation. “Jus­tice [Elena] Ka­gan tripped them up pretty good on that.”

Kreis be­lieves it is highly un­likely the Supreme Court will up­hold the Sixth Cir­cuit rul­ing to keep in place same-sex mar­riage bans. And with, hope­fully, a rul­ing that same-sex mar­riage is legal na­tion­wide, Ge­or­gia will fi­nally be “brought into the fold” with the 37 states that cur­rently of­fer legal same-sex mar­riages.

“It ap­pears Gov. Nathan Deal and [At­tor­ney Gen­eral] Sam Olens won’t even wait for a for­mal court or­der to abide by the Supreme Court’s rul­ing, and that is cer­tainly not an in­signif­i­cant devel­op­ment,” he said. “It bodes well for the rule of law.”

Kreis fully ex­pects to be cel­e­brat­ing at 10th and Pied­mont in June.

“I’m look­ing for­ward to June and be­ing in Mid­town again to cel­e­brate. I can’t imag­ine what it will be like,” he said.

“The choice is not be­tween the Court and the State, but in­stead whether the in­di­vid­ual can de­cide who to marry, or whether the gov­ern­ment will de­cide for him.” —Mary Bo­nauto of the Gay & Les­bian Ad­vo­cates & De­fend­ers in her closing ar­gu­ments be­fore the U.S. Supreme Court.

(Photo by ACLU)

Hun­dreds of sup­port­ers of same-sex mar­riage gath­ered at the Supreme Court on April 28 to be part of the his­toric ar­gu­ments to de­cide if mar­riage equal­ity will be legal in all 50 states.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.