US nine justices of the Supreme Court hears landmark gay marriage case

April 28, 2015 2:59 pm

The nine justices of the Supreme
Court began on Tuesday to hear arguments on whether the Constitution
provides same-sex couples the right to marry, taking up a contentious
social issue in what promises to be the year’s most anticipated ruling.

A crowd estimated at more than 1,000 people, with those
favoring legalized gay marriage outnumbering those opposed, gathered
outside the white marble courthouse as the nine justices started to hear
2-1/2 hours of oral arguments in the case, known as Obergefell v.
Hodges.
Indonesia made final
preparations Tuesday to execute eight foreigners by firing squad, as
family members wailed in grief during last visits to their loved ones
and ambulances carrying white coffins arrived at the drug convicts’
prison.

Gay marriage advocates held up signs with
slogans including “Love for all” and “America is ready for freedom to
marry.” A smaller but vocal group of people against gay marriage held
signs including one calling gay sex sinful and another stating, “Satan
rules over all, the children of pride.”
The
decision, due by the end of June, will determine whether gay marriage
will be legal nationwide. The arguments center on gay marriage bans in
Kentucky, Michigan, Ohio and Tennessee, four of the 13 states that
currently prohibit it.
All eyes will be on
conservative Justice Anthony Kennedy, who may cast the deciding fifth
vote on a court closely divided on gay rights. The four liberal justices
are expected to support same-sex marriage, and Kennedy has a history of
backing gay rights. In decisions since 1996, Kennedy has broadened the
court’s view of equality for gays.

Gay marriage supporters rally in front of the Supreme Court before a
hearing about gay marriage in Washington April 28, 2015. REUTERS/Joshua
Roberts

Kennedy authored a 5-4 decision in the most
recent gay rights ruling, a 2013 rejection of a federal law defining
marriage as between a man and woman for purposes of federal benefits.
Kennedy said the statute’s only purpose was “to disparage and to injure
those whom the state, by its marriage laws, sought to protect in
personhood and dignity.”
Public support for gay
marriage has steadily grown in recent years and is particularly strong
among younger Americans.
Before gay marriage became
legal in the liberal northeastern state of Massachusetts in 2004, it was
not permitted in any state. Now it is legal in 37 states and
Washington, D.C.
The arguments are divided into two parts.

The first, set for 90 minutes, is on whether the
Constitution’s guarantees of due process and equal protection under the
law mean states must allow gay couples to marry. The second, scheduled
for an hour, concerns whether states must recognize same-sex marriages
occurring out-of-state.

Gay marriage supporters Joe (L) and Frank Capley-Alafano of Oakland,
California, stand in front of the Supreme Court before a hearing about
gay marriage in Washington April 28, 2015. REUTERS/Joshua Roberts  

Gay rights activists call same-sex marriage a leading American civil rights issue of this era.

Opponents say same-sex marriage legality should be decided
by individual states, not judges. Some opponents argue it is an affront
to traditional marriage between a man and a woman and that the Bible
condemns homosexuality.

There was a lively debate outside the courthouse.

Thea Filippatos, a 23-year-old New York University
student, said, “If I was heterosexual, I could get married anywhere in
this country and not have a problem.” Looking at the anti-gay marriage
signs, Filippatos said, “Whatever happened to love thy neighbor? That’s
what I learned about Christianity when I was a child.”

Ruben Israel, a 55-year-old from Los Angeles opposed to
gay marriage, said, “We don’t find any male to male marriage in the
Bible. There is no woman to woman marriage.”
President Barack Obama is the first sitting president to
support gay marriage. His administration will argue on the side of
same-sex marriage advocates.
The decision will affect not just the right of gay people
to marry but also their right to be recognized as a spouse or parent on
birth and death certificates and other legal documents.
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