Supreme Court Justices Appear Skeptical During Gay Marriage Arguments

| by Ethan Brown
U.S. Supreme Court.U.S. Supreme Court.

In one of the most closely watched court cases in the nation, the U.S. Supreme Court began listening to arguments on federally legalizing same-sex marriage on April 28.

The central question is whether the U.S. Constitution allows the right for gay couples to legally marry. If five of the nine justices believe it does, same-sex marriage will become legal in all 50 states, whether state governments and citizens want it or not. 

Early indications from hearings show the justices acting skeptical towards the lawyers' arguments in favor of same-sex marriage. Justice Anthony Kennedy, considered the lone moderate on the bench, said he was worried about the Supreme Court changing the traditional definition of marriage that has been present over centuries, The New York Times reports.

More conservative Justices Samuel Alito and Antonin Scalia both worried about the effect the new law would have on members of the clergy, who would be forced to perform weddings for same-sex couples even if it went against their religious beliefs.

Liberal Justices Stephen Breyer, Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Elena Kagan all supported the idea of legalizing same-sex marriage, with Breyer referring to it as a “fundamental liberty.”

Chief Justice John Roberts was critical as well, saying to lawyer Mary Bonauto: “You are not seeking to join the institution. You are seeking to change the institution.”

Justice Kennedy still appears to be the swing vote. Although he questioned the Supreme Court's authority to change the traditional definition of marriage, he was also sharply critical of John Bursch's statements. Bursch is the lawyer defending the bans.

Bursch said that if citizens do not believe that “marriage and creating children have anything to do with each other,” then more children will be born to unmarried couples.

Kennedy, however, said Bursch's other premise that "only opposite-sex couples can have a bonding with a child" is "wrong." 

Currently, all but 13 states have legalized same-sex marriage. Some of the states who still have a ban, such as Kentucky and Michigan, have faced high-profile state court cases regarding the issue.

Just as those who support same-sex marraige legalization have been vocal about their opinion, those who oppose have been just as vocal. Earlier today, during the court’s hearings, a protester interrupted the proceedings; a nearby witness said that the protester was “yelling and screaming about God, fire and brimstone were going to rain down on this country if the Supreme Court ruled in favor of gay marriage,” CNN reported.

Sources: The New York Times, CNN

Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons