'History in the Making': Gay Marriage Ban Goes Before High Court

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Common Dreams

'History in the Making': Gay Marriage Ban Goes Before High Court

Plaintiff: 'We look forward to a day when Prop 8 is officially eliminated and equality is restored to the state of California.'

by
Lauren McCauley, staff writer

As the Supreme Court heard opening arguments for a case challenging the constitutionality of California's same sex marriage ban, hundreds gathered outside in hopes of catch "a glimpse of civil rights history" in the making. 

Speaking from the steps of the Supreme Court following the arguments, attorneys Ted Olson and David Boies representing the plaintiffs in the Proposition 8 trial, Hollingsworth v. Perry, said:

The American people were listening to the argument. The other side, nobody really offered a defense.

We're very gratified they listened, they heard, they asked hard questions, (but) there is no denying where the right is, and we hope the court (rules that way) in June.

Plaintiff Kris Perry, also speaking on the high court steps, added: 

In this country as children, we learn that there's a founding principle, that all men and women are created equal. … Unfortunately with the passage of Proposition 8, we learned that there are group of people in California who are not being treated equally.

We look forward to a day when prop 8 is officially eliminated and equality is restored to the state of California.

The challenge to Proposition 8 is the first of two seminal gay rights cases on the docket for this week. Arguments for the second, United States v. Windsor, which challenges the legality of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), will be heard Wednesday morning.

"It's conventional wisdom that national gay marriage is inevitable," writes Glenn Greenwald, "the tipping point has clearly been reached."

"The discrimination has been rooted in centuries of intense social and religious indoctrination," he adds. "That this is now being uprooted is a testament to how core political liberties - free speech and free associational rights - can enable all forms of political change."

"The real credit here doesn’t go to public officials who belatedly acknowledged the inevitable, and ultimately were followers in the footsteps of a movement that helped compel an inexorable shift in public attitudes towards greater social tolerance," adds Greg Sargent, reflecting on how far the gay rights movement has come since the days of the Stonewall uprising and the vilification of the AIDS epidemic. He continues:

Incredibly, that goal — victory in a battle that first and foremost is about dignity, tolerance, and equality — is now a real possibility. Which is why people are massing outside the Supreme Court this morning, in hopes of catching a glimpse of civil rights history — of American history — in the making.

As the trial began, proponents of gay rights rallied outside the courthouse building. Organized by the United for Marriage coalition, activists gave speeches and wielded signs, clearly optimistic about the day's proceedings. A second rally is scheduled to take place Wednesday morning, as well. More information on the events can be found here.

On the opposite end of the National Mall anti-rights activists held a 'dueling rally' dubbed the 'March for Marriage,' during which participants paraded around the U.S. Capitol to the Supreme Court.

Despite the attention brought to this particular trial, it is not clear whether the justices will choose to weigh-in broadly, handing down rulings with widespread impact or opt for something "narrow and legalistic" and ultimately say little about the issue at hand, writes the Associated Press.

Reporting from within the trial, Reuter's David Ingram speculated that the two potential "swing votes" appeared to "raise doubts" on the legality of the ban as they questioned the lawyer defending Proposition 8. He continues: 

During the first half of oral argument, Chief Justice John Roberts pressed lawyer Charles Cooper on whether Cooper's clients had a legal right to appeal in federal court in favor of California's Proposition 8.

"I don't think we've ever allowed anything like that," Roberts said. If the clients lack that right, the Supreme Court may not reach the central question of gay marriage rights.

Justice Anthony Kennedy used one of his questions to focus on the "imminent legal injury" facing 40,000 California children being raised by gay and lesbian couples. "They want their parents to have full recognition and full status," he said.

Both Reuters and the Guardian are live blogging from inside the trial.

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