Tuesday the Supreme Court heard oral arguments in the landmark same-sex marriage case, Obergefell v. Hodges. A case that could have a profound impact on an individual state’s ability to define legal unions. The lines of questioning seem to indicate a wide range of opinions on the issue among the nine judges. Chief Justice Roberts got right to the heart of the issue.
Roberts expressed concerns about the rapid change associated with the same-sex marriage debate, citing Maine as an example in how they banned same-sex marriage in 2009 and then just 3 years later signed same-sex marriage into law. He continued on that rapid change line and questioned the idea that gays and lesbians want to join the institution of marriage rather than redefine it;
“[Y]ou say join in the institution. The argument on the other side is that they’re seeking to redefine the institution. Every definition that I looked up, prior to about a dozen years ago, defined marriage as unity between a man and a woman as husband and wife. Obviously, if you succeed, that core definition will no longer be operable.”
“My question is you’re not seeking to join the institution, you’re seeking to change what the institution is. The fundamental core of the institution is the opposite-sex relationship and you want to introduce into it a same-sex relationship.”
Listen to the preceding here (part one):
Other notable moments within the arguments from other Justices:
Justice Kennedy on historical tradition, “One of the problems is when you think about these cases you think about words or cases, and the word that keeps coming back to me in this case is is millennia, plus time. First of all, there has not been really time, so the respondents say, for the Federal system to engage in this debate, the separate States. … I don’t even know how to count the decimals when we talk about millennia. This definition has been with us for millennia. And it’s very difficult for the court to say, oh, well, we know better.”
Justice Alito on polygamy, “Well, what if there’s no — these are 4 people, 2 men and 2 women, it’s not — it’s not the sort of polygamous relationship, polygamous marriages that existed in other societies and still exist in some societies today. And let’s say they’re all consenting adults, highly educated. They’re all lawyers. What would be the ground under the logic of the decision you would like us to hand down in this case? What would be the logic of denying them the same right?”
Here’s part two of the proceedings:
Justice Sonia Sotomayor on the liberty of others impeded by same-sex marriage: “I’m sorry. Nobody is taking that away from anybody. Every single individual in this society chooses, if they can, their sexual orientation or who to marry or not marry. I suspect even with us giving gays rights to marry some gay people who will choose not to. Just as there’s some heterosexual couples who choose not to marry. So we’re not taking anybody’s liberty away.”
Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg on the effect of same-sex on heterosexual couples, “All of the incentives, all of the benefits that marriage affords would still be available. So you’re not taking away anything from heterosexual couples. They would have the very same incentive to marry, all the benefits that come with marriage that they do now.”
Justice Ginsburg on the definition of marriage changing over time, “Marriage was a relationship of a dominant male to a subordinate female,” she explained. “That ended as a result of this court’s decision in 1982 when Louisiana’s Head and Master Rule was struck down … Would that be a choice that a state should be allowed to have? To cling to marriage the way it once was?”
Justice Elena Kagan on adoption adding to the children and procreation discussion, “More adopted children and more marital households, whether same-sex or other sex seems to be a good thing,” she said.
A decision on this case is not expected until June, the debate continues in the meantime.