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Open Thread for Marriage Equality and SCOTUS Tea Leaf Reading

Today is Day 2 of oral arguments in the Supreme Court related to marriage equality. Yesterday’s arguments were on California’s Prop 8 and today’s arguments cover the so-called Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA).


Wednesday Transcript and Audio.

Tuesday Transcript and Audio.

From TPM’s Sahil Kapur on yesterday’s session:

In oral arguments Tuesday morning on California’s Proposition 8, the Supreme Court appeared narrowly divided on the question of whether the Constitution’s guarantee of equal protection affords same sex couples the right to marry – but a majority of the justices appeared skeptical that the case has standing and flirted with throwing it out. […]

If the justices vacate the 9th Circuit’s decision, which is what is being appealed, the district court decision overturning Prop 8 would still stand, according to the respected SCOTUSblog, meaning same-sex marriage would be legal in California for now. Still, the case could be relitigated by a new party with proper standing.

From Think Progress’ Ian Millhiser a guide to the proceedings

the Supreme Court will hear two cases that could recognize the right of everyone, straight or gay, to marry the person they love. The first concerns California’s anti-gay Proposition 8, and could potentially extend the right to marry to same-sex couples in all fifty states. The second challenges the federal Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), and could end the federal government’s practice of denying equal benefits to couples who are legally married under state law. Here is everything you need to know to understand these cases…


Democratic Senators in red states are weighing in:

Sen. Kay Hagan (D-NC) Announces Support For Marriage Equality

Sen. Mark Begich (D-AK) Backs Gay Marriage

Sen. Jon Tester (D-MT) Announces Support For Gay Marriage

Right-wing pundits set their hair on fire:

Fox News Contributors Say Marriage Equality Would Criminalize Christianity

Related News:

‘It’s Bad For Business’: Employers Side With DOMA Opponents

The Best Marriage Equality Signs At The Supreme Court

From the Tweet deck:


Share your news stories, Tweets and guesses.


  1. slksfca

    But I admit I haven’t been paying close enough attention.

    And despite my firm conviction that we won’t know anything for sure until we know it, I do find the reading of tea leaves to be a fascinating pastime. My gut instinct is that the Supremes will decline to rule on Prop 8, thus restoring marriage equality to California; and that they will strike down DOMA, because it makes no constitutional sense now that so many states have embraced same-sex marriage.

  2. BREAKING NEWS Wednesday, March 27, 2013 12:39 PM EDT

    Majority of Justices Skeptical of Federal Ban on Benefits to Same-Sex Spouses  

    A majority of the justices on Wednesday questioned the constitutionality of the Defense of Marriage Act of 1996, as the Supreme Court took up the volatile issue of same-sex marriage for a second day.

    Justice Anthony M. Kennedy, widely considered the swing vote on the divided court, joined the four liberals in posing skeptical questions to a lawyer defending the law, which defines marriage as the union of a man and a woman for the purposes of more than 1,000 federal laws and programs.

    “The question is whether or not the federal government under a federalism system has the authority to regulate marriage,” Justice Kennedy said during oral arguments, suggesting that the question should be left to the states. He disagreed with the contention that the federal law simply created a single definition for federal purposes, noting that same-sex couples are not treated the same as other married couples. “It’s not really uniformity,” he said.

  3. I read this story in my newspaper yesterday. It is heartbreaking:

    SAN FRANCISCO – The death certificate read “single,” although the fallen soldier was not.

    When it came time to inform the next of kin, casualty officers did not go to the widow’s door in North Carolina, nor did she receive the flag that draped the casket of her beloved, a 29-year-old National Guard member killed by a suicide bomber in Afghanistan.

    Because federal law defines marriage as the union of a man and a woman, the military did not recognize the marriage of Army Sgt. Donna R. Johnson and Tracy Dice Johnson at all, rendering Johnson ineligible for the most basic survivor benefits, from return of the wedding ring recovered from the body to a monthly indemnity payment of $1,215.

    The widow is an Army staff sergeant who survived her own 15-month tour in Iraq.

    Former Defense Secretary Leon Panetta issued an order before he left office that would have helped:

    … Panetta ordered the Army, Navy, Air Force and Marines to extend to same-sex partners of military personnel certain benefits not precluded by the DOMA, including ID cards giving them access to on-base services and visitation rights at military hospitals. […]

    In the future, for example, same-sex survivors of service members will be eligible to receive a deceased partner’s personal effects and to be presented with the folded flag at the funeral.

  4. Interesting Twitter conversation about states rights. Chief Justice John Roberts apparently went to the states rights well for his drink of skepticism. Which asks the question: why wasn’t Loving v Virginia looked at as a state rights issue? Of course, the short answer is: because states don’t get to decide civil rights. If they did, there would still be slavery in the south.  

  5. cassandracarolina

    The people who want to keep heterosexual marriage “sacred” still want to reach into the wife’s uterus and force her to carry all pregnancies to term. Heck, they’re probably wanting to camp out in the bedroom to oversee the conception process as well, to ensure that there’s nothing fun unnatural going on. They’d get a lot more credibility if they said “what goes on in a marriage is between the husband and the wife. The government has no role in their deliberations”.

  6. princesspat

    Seeking more solid ground for their skeptical view of same-sex marriage, Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. and the other court conservatives rallied around the idea that moving too fast on same-sex marriage would be unwise because it is a novel idea that breaks with tradition. Theodore B. Olson, representing the anti-Prop. 8 side, offered the obvious and most pertinent rejoinder: interracial marriage was illegal until the Supreme Court invalidated laws against it in 1967. Such laws enforced a traditional view and were supported by large majorities, not just in the South, but all over the country. Yet the court went against the majority of Americans and against the status quo in that decision.

    The principle is exactly the same in the case of Prop. 8 as it was with interracial marriage: a certain class of citizens should not be denied the right to marry simply because they were born different from the majority. It looks doubtful, though, that the current court will be as brave in asserting equal rights as were their counterparts back in ’67.

    Click for the cartoon…  

  7. slksfca

    …this time a quote from the blogger himself:

    The Anti-Equality Movement

    My view is that those who hold the view, in good conscience, that marriage should only be between a man and a woman, life-long, monogamous and procreative – have, and always have had, the option of leading by example rather than suppressing the rights of others. That’s the Christian, not Christianist, way forward. If their argument is so strong, they should not be worried by what presumably they think is a fad. Fads die out. All they really have to do is be true to their principles, convey them persuasively … and wait.

    And yet they don’t. I wonder why.

  8. iriti

    ::iriti looks into only slightly chipped crystal ball::

    I say they’ll toss ’em both on standing. The cowards’ way out. It would have the effect of leaving the lower court rules overturning in place, so there’s that, but would allow the justices to remain at one with their inner bigot.

  9. slksfca

    …Beyoncé gets clever in support of marriage equality:

    (hat tip Towleroad)

    I’m surprised, but I actually know the lyric to which she refers. 🙂

  10. jlms qkw

    rove had all these states put unequal marriage constitutional amendments on the votes . . . .

    fuck karl rove.  

  11. jlms qkw

    our rights shouldn’t depend on our zip codes.

    i do not trust states’ rights.

    equal access to all civil rights (voting, marriage, employment, housing) for ALL.  in every single state.  

  12. Its the Supreme Court Stupid

    Section 2 of DOMA (which is NOT under review in the current cases).  Section 2 allows states to not recognize single-sex marriages performed in other states.  There are very real Full Faith and Credit Clause problems with this — and even a few cases percolating in the Federal Court system.  I need to do some research, and that means I need some time.  If not this weekend, maybe next week.

  13. princesspat

    A Republican Left Turn?

    If the Republican Party concedes defeat in the culture war, as a number of commentators on the right and the left argue it should, what what will happen to the conservative coalition? Can hard-line stands on social issues be set aside?


    Withdrawing full-throated support for the religious right (for example, by altering the anti-abortion plank of the 2012 Republican Party platform, which called for a constitutional amendment banning abortion without exception for victims of rape or incest or to save the life of the mother) may be a gamble – and may cost the party donors – but at the moment the Republican Party holds a losing hand.

    History in Real Time

    Witnessing a historic moment is such an odd and exhilarating thing. It is hard to register the full scope of it because you are chest deep in it.


    However the court rules on California’s Proposition 8 and the federal government’s Defense of Marriage Act, there is no denying that something historic has just happened: an aggrieved group has taken a stand and given voice once again to the American – and indeed Democratic – ideals of justice and fairness and freedom.

  14. Wee Mama

    swiftly spread and quench all that angry red.

    If anyone would find it handy to have resources for a religious case for marriage equality, there are some here. They’re from a course I’ve taught several times on changing tradition through scripture.

  15. cassandracarolina

    in the culture wars, it’s starting to feel as though their entire fortess will crumble. Then again, that’s what happens when one builds brittle structures in tectonically active zones. One person’s “inevitable” is another’s “who could have possibly foreseen this?!”  

  16. Obama Forms Presidential Commission To Study Voting Problems

    President Obama has established a new bipartisan commission on election administration, something he promised to do in his Feb. 12 State of the Union address. He signed an executive order (PDF) Thursday making it official.

    The Presidential Commission on Election Administration is being headed by two longtime Washington attorneys, Bob Bauer and Ben Ginsberg. Bauer was general counsel to the president’s re-election campaign and is also Obama’s former White House counsel. Ginsberg was national counsel to Republican Mitt Romney’s presidential campaign and also to the Bush-Cheney presidential campaigns.

    Color me skeptical. When a Democrat talks about voting, they talk about making it easier for everyone to vote. When a Republican talks about voting, they talk about “voter fraud” and worry about the integrity of the vote (essentially, Democratic leaning voters being allowed to vote). You can’t reconcile the two and I hope no one tries for some sort of false “middle ground” that bipartisan commissions are notorious for.  

  17. NYPD Officer Told Innocent 13-Year-Old To ‘Stop Crying Like A Little Girl’ During Stop And Frisk

    During the second week of testimony on New York City’s controversial stop-and-frisk program, an officer admitted to detaining and then mocking a 13-year-old boy when he started crying. Though the boy was innocent, he was still cuffed and brought to the station:

       Appearing on the stand Wednesday, police officer Brian Dennis testified that he had taunted a 13-year-old boy after he detained him. Dennis told the handcuffed child, Devin Almonor, to “stop crying like a little girl.”

    It has nothing to do with making the streets safer and everything to do with humiliation. What does that teach our minority youth? And what does it say about us if we allow it to continue?

  18. From TPM Newswire

    President Obama is scheduled to deliver a speech  on the economy at 2 p.m. ET Friday in Miami, the White House said. Obama’s speech is scheduled after the President tours a tunnel project at PortMiami.

  19. slksfca

    …for all the news updates. Since I’m not keeping up very well on my own with news and such I find your tidbits very helpful.

    And again, Happy Birthday! Hope the pesky clients don’t dampen your celebration too much. 🙂

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