Today’s Oral Arguments Show How Much Work Is Left To Be Done To Ensure Equality For All
Today, the Supreme Court heard oral arguments in Obergefell v. Hodges, a case that could extend marriage equality to all 50 states. While the Supreme Court has the opportunity to make a powerful decision in granting same-sex couples the constitutional right to marry in every state, today’s oral arguments reflect decades of unyielding work by advocates and the courage of everyday gay, lesbian and bisexual Americans who dared to live openly and authentically.
Before the oral arguments began, a decision in favor of marriage equality seemed almost certain, but today’s arguments highlighted the fact that more important than the final decision handed down by the court, is the way in which that decision is drafted. We wanted to highlight a few key takeaways from today’s oral arguments, but for a more in-depth breakdown, be sure to check out Think Progress Justice editor Ian Millhiser’s full analysis.
1. The lawyer arguing against marriage equality may have talked his way out of victory. Most of the Court’s conservative justices seemed fixated on their belief that same-sex marriage is a very new institution. But John Bursch, the lawyer arguing against marriage equality, instead focused his argument on the idea that extending a constitutional right to marry to same-sex couples would have “consequences” for opposite-sex couples, an unpopular argument that was only supported by the Court’s two most conservative justices, Alito and Thomas, when it was used in a previous marriage equality case.
2. Justice Kennedy hinted that denying marriage rights is denying dignity to same-sex couples. Justice Kennedy balked at Bursch’s argument that same-sex marriage could lead to more children being born out-of-wedlock by changing the definition of marriage. In his opinion in the landmark Lawrence v. Texas, which outlawed a sex ban targeting a gay couple, Kennedy argued that decisions about marriage involve “choices central to personal dignity and autonomy” and are therefore protected by the Fourteenth Amendment.
3. Even with a decision extending marriage equality, there is still much work to be done. Several of the Court’s liberal justices seem poised to grant the constitutional right to marry to same-sex couples, and while this would be a victory, much work remains to ensure full equality for LGBT Americans. Even if the Supreme Court rules in favor of marriage equality, same-sex couples in 28 states could get legally married one day and then legally fired the next. Marriage equality is neither a controversial nor a partisan issue, several recent polls show that more than 60 percent of Americans support marriage equality—including 61 percent of young Republicans and almost 60 percent of American Catholics—yet the LGBT community still faces pervasive discrimination when planning to get married, seeking employment, and accessing basic goods and services.
Marriage equality is neither a controversial nor a partisan issue, several recent polls show that more than 60 percent of Americans support marriage equality—including 61 percent of young Republicans and almost 60 percent of American Catholics—yet the LGBT community still faces pervasive discrimination when planning to get married, seeking employment, and accessing basic goods and services.
BOTTOM LINE: Today’s oral arguments show how far we have come on marriage equality. This progress would not have happened without the countless advocates who have worked tirelessly for decades to ensure all families are treated with dignity and fairness. While the court’s decision in June could bring good news, we must not forget how much work there is still left to do to ensure that all Americans, including LGBT people, are safe and secure in their homes, workplaces, and communities. Congress and state legislatures must pass comprehensive non-discrimination laws to provide LGBT Americans and their families with the same protections currently afforded to other Americans.
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