UPDATED: Same-sex marriage goes to Washington – Virginia LGBTQ’s right to marry on the line
Update: 11:30 AM
Oral arguments in today’s Supreme Court hearing over the future of same-sex marriage are underway and drama is unfolding inside and outside the court room.
Quotes from justices are coming in through the SCOTUS blog feed, giving us some insight into the future of this case:
If court decides, said Roberts “there will be no more debate” on same-sex marriage, which “can close minds.” #SCOTUS
— Ryan J. Reilly
Kennedy multiple times talked about marriage being the same for “millenia.” He said he “kept coming back” to that thought.#ReutersSCOTUS
— David Ingram (@David_Ingram) April 28, 2015
Outside the courthouse, Washington Blade reporter Michael Lavers has been witness to both sides of the argument setting up competing rallies.
“It’s pretty lively out here, but no violence, just spirited debate,” he said. Those supporting same-sex marriage set up a rally around 9:30, and at 10, those opposing set up a rally about 10 feet away from them – this lead to the two groups shouting at each other.
— Michael K. Lavers (@mklavers81) April 28, 2015
Signs for both sides of the issue are present, and Lavers estimated a couple thousand people were in attendance.
Lavers was outside the courthouse when the Windsor case was heard and he noticed today’s hearing had less opposition present. “They certainly are very vocal,” he said, “but the side show (the Westboro baptist Church) is out and around the side of the court house, as well as an over flow of people across the street.”
The DC Gay Men’s chorus has been present and sining all morning as well.
“I think this is a real since of ‘this is it,” said Lavers, who noticed a lot of the conversations were about what came next for the LGBTQ movement like discrimination. “It’s weighing on both sides’s minds, thats for sure.”
A press conference is scheduled outside the courthouse around 12:30.
The fight for same-sex couples to legally marry heads to the Supreme Court today in a fight both those opposed and supportive of the issue have asked for.
Many might wonder exactly what is being argued today after last summer’s landmark same-sex marriage case which struck down the federal ban on same-sex marriage, the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA).
Edith “Edie” Windsor, 84 was the significant plaintiff of DOMA’s case. According to CNN, after her wife’s death in 2009, Windsor “was forced to assume an estate tax bill much larger than those that other married couples would have to pay.”
Because DOMA defined marriage as between a man and a woman, same-sex couples like Windsor and her spouse were not given federal benefits such as Social Security and medical leave. “The whole design of [DOMA] was to discriminate and punish a certain set of people,” said Michael Hamar, a Norfolk-based Attorney with a history of covering LGBT issues.
In a 5-4 ruling last summer, the Supreme Court said DOMA was unconstitutional as it deprived same-sex couples equal protection under the law by the 14th Amendment. As said on CNN, now “same-sex spouses legally married in a state may receive federal benefits.”
Justice Anthony Kennedy, who was appointed by the Republican president Ronald Reagan, was the swing vote.
But that decision only struck down the federal ban – it did nothing to halt bans on the state level. It was after this decision that you saw state level bands falling as most courts used the Windsor case as precedent, much like here in Virginia.
Every court followed SCOTUS’s moves until last November when the Sixth Circuit federal court which decided in favor of state bans on same-sex marriage in Ohio, Kentucky, Tennessee and Michigan in Obergefell v. Hodges.
While 36 states and Washington DC have started legally marrying same-sex couples, SCOTUS could technically move against same-sex marriage and undo all the work done by LGBTQ activists.
Today’s case is set to decide two crucial unanswered questions left by the Windsor decision:
1) Does the Fourteenth Amendment require a state to license a marriage between two people of the same sex?
2) Does the Fourteenth Amendment require a state to recognize a marriage between two people of the same sex when their marriage was lawfully licensed and performed out-of-state?
Oral arguments are expected to start around 11 AM, and the folks at SCOTUSBlog will be giving live updates as the morning unfolds.
Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring will be among those in the court room today. His office filed an amicus brief supporting the end of bans on same-sex marriage. Herring has made clear his support for LGBTQ Virginians since his first days in office when he change’d the Commonwealth’s stance on the issue and helped strike down the 2006 voter-approved ban.
Outside the court house, crowds have already started to gather with those on both sides expected to turn out in large numbers.
Michael Lavers of The Washington Blade spoke with GayRVA this am a bit head of the first scheduled rally at 9:30 AM.
“There’s more opponents than I thought there would be,” said Lavers who counted about 500 people gathered by 8:50 AM. “Much of what [the crowds] are saying is quite homophobic, but someone right next to me is literally unfurling a rainbow flag as I speak.”
— Michael K. Lavers (@mklavers81) April 28, 2015
Lavers had already spoken to folks from Cincinnati and Key West Florida, and the plaintiffs in the Prop 8 case were in attendance as well.
GayRVA will be checking in with Lavers and providing commentary on the oral arguments once they’re made public later this afternoon.
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