Today, the US Supreme Court begins hearing oral arguments in a ground-breaking case concerning marriage bans in the states of Michigan, Ohio, Tennessee, and Kentucky, in the first large-scale Supreme Court action on the issue since a ruling in favour of equality during 2013’s United States v Windsor.
Oral argument before the Supreme Court will take only a few hours, and hinge on an important question: whether marriage equality for gays and lesbians is a new right, or whether it’s an aspect of the existing right to marry. The couples argue that the Supreme Court has already recognised marriage as a fundamental freedom, and states cannot impose arbitrary restrictions on that freedom.
The four states before the court argue that federal law has only recognised marriage as fundamental for straight couples — a claim that echoes the racist arguments against overturning interracial marriage laws in the 1960s.
The justices will hear the case just a few days after a new survey shows public support for marriage equality rising to new heights. A new Washington Post/ABC survey puts support at 61 percent to 35 percent opposed. That’s close to a complete reversal from just a decade ago.
A ruling is expected by the summer.
Ahead of the case, hundreds of amicus briefs have been filed by concerned parties – with President Obama’s administration urging the court to strike down bans on same-sex marriage, while Republicans in Congress urged the court not to.
However, in a sure-fire sign that Republicans don’t want to be seen on the wrong side of history in the case, just 57 out of the party’s 299 Members of Congress signed the brief, which argues states should be allowed to decide if gays are allowed to marry. In contrast, a brief from the Democrats in favour of equality was signed by 211 of the party’s 232 Members of Congress.
A number of leading employers have also urged the court to strike down the ban, with a number of corporate rivals have put their differences aside to sign a joint legal brief. Bitter rivals – including Microsoft, Apple and Google, Twitter and Facebook, eBay and Amazon – put their differences aside to sign on to the brief. Other iconic businesses to support same-sex marriage include Walt Disney, Coca-Cola, Nike, Visa, American Apparel, Verison, General Mills, Barnes & Noble.