Tags: roberts | kennedy | question | gay | marriage

Roberts, Kennedy Question Gay Marriage as Court Clash Starts

Image: Roberts, Kennedy Question Gay Marriage as Court Clash Starts
Chief Justice John Roberts and Justice Anthony Kennedy. (Mandel Ngan/Pool/Getty Images)

Tuesday, 28 Apr 2015 11:11 AM

 Two pivotal justices questioned the legal case for same-sex marriage rights, as the U.S. Supreme Court began a morning of arguments in a historic showdown.

Chief Justice John Roberts and Justice Anthony Kennedy suggested Tuesday that declaring gay weddings to be a constitutional right would upend the tradition of marriage between a man and a woman.

“This definition has been with us for millennia,” Kennedy said.

Roberts said the “basic definition” of marriage is between a man and woman. While acceptance of same-sex marriage has occurred relatively quickly, people feel “very differently” about issues they have an opportunity to vote on rather than having a policy imposed by a court, the chief justice said.

“You’re seeking to change what the institution is,” Roberts told a lawyer for gay-marriage proponents. “If you prevail here, there will be no more debate.”

Early questioning doesn’t necessarily indicate which way a justice will vote. The court is hearing 2 1/2 hours of argument.

Kennedy is a critical vote for marriage advocates. He wrote all three of the court’s rulings expanding gay rights over the last two decades, including the 5-4 decision two years ago that required the federal government to recognize same-sex marriages.

Members of the court often grill lawyers for both sides of a case, and Roberts and Kennedy will have a chance to question lawyers defending same-sex marriage bans later in Tuesday’s argument.

Justice Scalia

Justice Antonin Scalia said a ruling that same-sex couples have a constitutional right to marry would be “unpalatable to many of our citizens for religious reasons.”

A decision backing gay marriage would be the culmination of a decades-long movement that has rapidly gained momentum in the past dozen years. The number of states where gays can legally wed has tripled in two years to 36, and advocates want the high court to extend that to the remaining 14 states.

Polls show record support among Americans for same-sex weddings. Hundreds of companies -- among them, Goldman Sachs Group Inc., Google Inc. and Walt Disney Co. -- are supporting gay marriage.

The high court is hearing cases from Michigan, Kentucky, Ohio and Tennessee -- the states covered by a federal appeals court ruling that rejected marriage rights.

31 Adults

Among the 31 adults pressing suits are April DeBoer and Jayne Rowse, nurses who have adopted four children, two of them with special needs, and are seeking to marry in Michigan. The Ohio case includes Jim Obergefell, who seeks to have his name on the death certificate of his partner of two decades, John Arthur. Obergefell and Arthur married on an airport tarmac in Maryland in 2013 just months before Arthur’s death.

The argument follows weeks of advocacy and anticipation, evidenced by the 140-plus briefs the court received from outside groups and individuals. The line for at least 50 public seats in the courtroom began forming outside the Supreme Court Friday morning. As the argument hour neared Tuesday morning, marriage advocates danced and waved rainbow flags while opponents held signs decrying homosexuality.

The lead case is Obergefell v. Hodges, 14-556.


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Two pivotal justices questioned the legal case for same-sex marriage rights, as the U.S. Supreme Court began a morning of arguments in a historic showdown. Chief Justice John Roberts and Justice Anthony Kennedy suggested Tuesday that declaring gay weddings to be a...
roberts, kennedy, question, gay, marriage
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2015-11-28
Tuesday, 28 Apr 2015 11:11 AM
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