What’s at Stake at the Supreme Court
s it stands today, there are 37 states that allow gay and lesbian couples to marry. Many of those states had bans on marriage equality that were overturned by a judge or panel of judges. If the the Supreme Court does rule in favor of states having a right to ban marriage, those state’s bans may automatically be reinstated and the status of all those couples who relied on those rights while they existed (i.e.got married) would be in question.
Although the final decision will not be made until later in the summer, tomorrow, the Supremes will hear oral arguments in Obergefell v. Hodges to determine whether or not state bans on lesbian and gay marriage rights are constitutional.
There are nine Justices in total. Four of them -Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Stephen Breyer, Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan – are liberal and will almost certainly vote to support marriage rights for all 50 states. Three others – Antonin Scalia, Clarence Thomas and Samuel Alito, are consistently conservative and have, in past cases, said they believe there is no constitutional right for marriage equality.
Then there is Chief Justice John Roberts – also conservative, but who has occasionally voted with the liberals in important cases. For instance, and much to the shock and dismay of the Tea Party, in 2012 he cast the deciding vote to uphold Obamacare. Although, Roberts DID side with conservatives when he voted against marriage rights in the Prop 8 and Windsor cases a few summers ago. However, he refused to sign onto the dissenting Justice’s opinion that declared that state bans on marriage rights were constitutional. So… it seems there is a chance he will decide to join the liberals in this case.
That leaves Justice Anthony Kennedy, who is almost consistently conservative – except on the issue of LGBT rights. Kennedy wrote the eloquent opinion in Lawrence v. Texas (that overturned sodomy laws) that – in my opinion – formed the basis for what has evolved for marriage equality ever since. If you want to read that opinion, here is the link.
Most Supreme Court experts believe Justice Kennedy will vote with the liberals in this case. Even if Chief Justice Robert’s sides with the conservatives, it will be a 5/4 ruling in favor of gay and lesbian couples having the right to marry.
Definitely not a sure bet – but a good one nonetheless.
We’ll be live-blogging on our Facebook Page tomorrow starting at 11:00. Hope to see you there!