For almost two hours Supreme Court justices heard arguments on the federal Defense of Marriage Act. The court covered wide ground, once again spending a significant amount of time on the topic of standing. This time the questions were around whether the Bipartisan Legal Advisory Group (BLAG), under the leadership of House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, had the legal right to sue. As in Proposition 8, the standing question could give the court the option to avoid the case by ruling that it should not have gone through the court system.
The justices also spent time on whether the federal government should be in the marriage business at all, or if that should be left to the states. Several justices also challenged President Barack Obama’s 2011 decision to stop upholding DOMA, and what kinds of precedent that sets. Solicitor General Solicitor General Donald Verrilli Jr. often tried to bring up the equal protection clause, and whether it applies to gays and lesbians. However, the court often took that question and went back to federal versus states legal rights.
UC Davis Law Professor Vikram Amar discussed the oral arguments with KQED News.
Amar: If one is going to read tea leaves based on the oral argument, it seems as if the court is not inclined to do something huge, in striking down the laws of 40 states that currently prohibit same-sex marriage. My big take-away from this has always been, the court did not really want to take these cases. … They may end up doing nothing at all, because both cases may get resolved on procedural standing grounds.
The basic idea is courts exist to decide crisp disputes, not just answer questions everyone wants answered. So unless you have somebody who is a plaintiff who has a lot at stake, and you have a defendant who is an appropriate defendant, then the court simply should not be able to render a ruling.
To us non lawyers it looks pretty simple: either gay people can legally marry each other or they can’t.
But as the Supreme Court prepares to rule on California’s Proposition 8, the justices will weigh multiple options. Some decisions would settle the question throughout the country for the foreseeable future. Some could leave it dangling for years to come.
The high court will hear arguments on the case on Tuesday, with a decision expected in June.
To start with, the court isn’t just taking on Prop. 8, the California constitutional amendment that banned same-sex marriage. It’s also tackling the Defense of Marriage Act, the federal law that denies federal benefits of marriage to same-sex couples. The court will hear arguments on the DOMA on Wednesday. And the two decisions are intertwined.
Well, that didn’t take long. When Salvatore Cordileone took over as the Catholic archbishop of San Francisco, academics I interviewed said he might pressure churches that welcome lesbians, gays, bisexuals and transgender people. They noted that he has campaigned actively against same-sex marriage. That was July 27. Now, reports are surfacing that Most Holy Redeemer, […]
It’s been a long time coming. The Episcopal Church’s decision to bless same-sex unions and ordain transgender priests was in the works for as many as 40 years, local leaders of the church told KQED’s Stephanie Martin. Martin spoke to two of the people who have pushed for change within the church. Jay Johnson is […]