Chief Justice Roberts takes spotlight in marriage fight
“no legitimate purpose.”
And Roberts’ seeming willingness to recognize sex discrimination in the context of bans on same-sex marriage stood in stark contrast to his equally blunt comment to same-sex couples’ attorney Mary Bonauto.
“My question is you’re not seeking to join the institution, you’re seeking to change what the institution is. The fundamental core of the institution is the opposite-sex relationship and you want to introduce into it a same-sex relationship.”
To that remark, Harvard Law Professor Charles Fried said he would have replied, “So what?”
“At one time, people thought women were inferior to men intellectually and physically, and Aristotle thought women made no contribution to the genetic component.” said Fried, a U.S. solicitor general under President Reagan and a former member of the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court. “They were wrong then, and we think we’ve got it right now. If I had been arguing ... I’d have said, ‘Maybe that was the definition back then, but it’s the wrong definition of the concept we’re talking about now.’”
Jenny Pizer, law and policy project director for Lambda Legal, said that limiting the definition of marriage to only male-female couplings is “a sex discrimination problem right on its face” because it “involves a core sex stereotype that men should seek intimate relationships with women, and vice versa.” And, she noted, many lower courts have already recognized as sex discrimination certain harassments of gay men at work and the denial of spousal benefits to employees with same-sex spouses.
Pizer said the majority could be heading toward a conclusion that says a state ban on marriage for same-sex couples is sex discrimination on its face and is based on gender stereotypes.
But it’s not clear why Roberts asked the question about sex discrimination. And his question regarding sex discrimination has to be viewed against the backdrop of his dissent in Windsor. There, Roberts prominently stated, “Interests in uniformity and stability amply justified Congress’s decision to retain the definition of marriage that, at that point, had been adopted by every State in our Nation, and every nation in the world.”
Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts’ question on sex discrimination during oral arguments over same-sex marriage give LGBT advocates hope he may vote to strike down state bans prohibiting marriage equality. (Official photo)