The Supreme Court heard arguments on the constitutionality of same-sex marriage based off two statutes with hundreds of people waiting both inside and outside the United States Supreme Court building in Washington, D.C., on March 26 and 27.
According to the Pew Research Center, “there is slightly more support for same-sex marriage than opposition to it with 48% in favor and 43% opposed… In 2001, Americans opposed same-sex marriage by a 57% to 35% margin.” It can be clearly inferred that views on same-sex marriage have drastically shifted in the past 12 years.
“I think it’s a big step,” said Brian Weismantel, journalism major at County College of Morris. “It shows how far the topic has come. It’s definitely come a long way.”
First heard by the Supreme Court was an issue dealing with the constitutionality of Proposition 8, voted on by California voters in 2008.
This statute defined marriage in California as between a man and a woman. Unique to this case was the methodology in which the law was presented to California voters – never before has a ballot initiative come before the highest court in the land.
Supreme Court Justice, Elena Kagan posed a hypothetical question to the supporters of Proposition 8 regarding the state’s interest in regulating marriage for the interest of procreation amongst couples over 55 years of age.
“I can just assure you if both the woman and the man are over the age of 55, there are not a lot of children coming out of that marriage.”
Two probing questions were confronted by the court in this case: Do the petitioners have the right to file a lawsuit under our Constitution in this matter?
Also, does the Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment, which prohibits states from denying its residents protection under the law, prohibit California from defining marriage as the union of one man and one woman?
Joe Somma, liberal arts major at CCM said he hopes that the Supreme Court rules that it’s not the government’s business to intrude in the citizens’ personal life.
“Nobody can be held for what they do in their private life,” he said. “It contradicts the idea of freedom.”
The other constitutional issue heard by the Court was the constitutionality of a law signed by President Clinton in 1996. This federal law denies federal benefits to gay and lesbian couples.
Making this issue more complex, on Feb. 23, 2011, the president and the attorney general announced that they would not defend the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), according to the U.S. Supreme Court Media.
At issue in this case are three essential legal questions.
First, does Section 3 of DOMA violate the Fifth Amendment’s guarantee of equal protection of the laws as applied to people of the same sex who are legally married under the laws of their state?
Next, does the executive branch’s agreement with the ruling handed down by U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit that DOMA is unconstitutional deprive the Supreme Court of the right to decide this case?
Finally at issue was whether the Bipartisan Legal Advisory Group of the United States House of Representatives has Article III standing in this case. The Bipartisan Legal Advisory Committee is a group of House representatives who support the upholding of DOMA.
After the President and the Attorney General announced that they would not defend the act in front of the Court, the Bipartisan Legal Advisory Group filed a petition to intervene in defense of DOMA and motioned to dismiss the case.
Questions thrown at the attorneys from the bench included the potential social and political implications resulting from this policy change, the questions of standing and injury, and many others.
The Supreme Court will make a ruling on these two cases before they leave for summer recess in June. Whichever way the Court leans will have an enormous impact on the future of gay marriage in this country.
“I’m not against it,” said Faye Hunt, human services major at CCM. “People do whatever makes them happy.”