As the Supreme Court prepares to hear two seminal cases this week which many believe will determine the future for gay marriage in the United States, same-sex marriage advocates say increased support and expanding state legislation in favor of gay marriage shows that momentum is clearly on their side.
Beginning on Tuesday, the justices will hear oral arguments in Hollingsworth v. Perry, which challenges the constitutionality of Proposition 8, California's ban on same sex marriage. That hearing will be followed by oral arguments on Wednesday for United States v. Windsor— a suit which accuses the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), which prevents legally married gay couples from receiving federal benefits, of violating the Fifth Amendment.
“I think the direction of the country is clear,” said Theodore Boutrous, an attorney with the American Foundation for Equal Rights (AFER), which is representing the plaintiffs in the Hollingsworth case.
Recently released polls show that public consensus over the issue, even across the partisan divide, has moved strongly in favor of individuals' rights.
According to a Washington Post-ABC poll released last week, nearly six in 10 Americans said they support the legalization of gay marriage, the highest level of support ever measured in the Post-ABC survey.
And, although established that same-sex marriage finds much broader support among younger demographics, the new numbers show increasing support across a variety of demographic groups. Support among seniors has jumped 26 percentage points in the last nine years, while Republican support has jumped 18 points since 2004, and Independent support is at 62 percent compared to 38 percent nine years ago.
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“There can be no doubt that this country is on a one-way road to marriage for loving and committed gay and lesbian couples,” said Human Rights Campaign President Chad Griffin. “This new poll reflects the continued evolution of people’s attitudes through thoughtful conversations over dinner tables and water coolers.”
Weighing in on the myriad possible outcomes of the two trials, the Associated Press writes, "The court could strike down dozens of state laws that limit marriage to heterosexual couples, but it also could uphold gay marriage bans or say nothing meaningful about the issue at all."
Equal rights proponents are arguing that if high court does move to strike down Proposition 8 and DOMA, that all anti-gay marriage laws should be voided.
“Certain rights are so fundamental, like the right to marriage, that no state can infringe on them, regardless of how the voters of that particular state feel,” said AFER attorney David Boies.
Highlighting the intense public interest in the trial, the Associated Press reported that lines began forming on Thursday for the few public seats available to watch the arguments—a full five days ahead of the trial.
Rulings are not expected until late June.