COMMENTARY: Supreme Court justices vote today on marriage-equality cases

Today may be the most important day in your life.

Today, the nine justices of the U.S. Supreme Court will vote in private on two momentous cases involving gay rights. These nine people hold our futures in their hands and they have the power to right the terrible wrongs of two centuries of discrimination against LGBT Americans.

Today, the justices will vote on the Proposition 8 appeal. At Tuesday’s oral hearings, the justices seemed preoccupied with the question of standing – whether the ProtectMarriage.com – Yes on 8 proponents had the legal right to defend the law when the State of California and the State Attorney General refused to do so because they accept the finding by District Judge Vaughn Walker that Prop 8 is unconstitutional. Four liberal and moderate justices appeared to suggest, through their line of questioning, that the law was discriminatory and mean-spirited against gay and lesbian couples who wanted to marry as well as posed no harm to opposite-sex couples who wanted to marry. Three right-wing justices indicated they were happy with their prehistoric thinking that marriage was reserved for one man and one woman. And Chief Justice John Roberts Jr. and Associate Justice Anthony Kennedy seemed to be the important swing votes on the issue.

Today, the justices will also vote on the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA). At Wednesday’s oral hearings, the justices seem to indicate that there are at least five votes in favor of striking down the discriminatory law that prohibits legally married gay and lesbian couples from more than 1,100 benefits that are afforded to legally married straight couples.

Alas, the justices are indicated that they are wary of righting the wrongs for all LGBT Americans, but limited their decision to the states where marriage equality exists. What is wrong with this approach? It creates two sets of LGBT Americans, affording full rights to those married couples who live in progressive states and yet discriminating against those married couples who don’t live in progressive states.

Furthermore, a limited decision by the high court will spark numerous lawsuits and clog the legal system for years to come, or until marriage equality is universal in all 50 states.

Let’s hold out hope that Justice Kennedy, who like Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Elena Kagan and Sonia Sotomayor noted the real-world issues involving both cases, will evolve quickly on same-sex marriage and do the right thing.

Now the wait begins. The high court has until the end of June to render their decisions on both cases.


Ken Williams is Editor in Chief of SDGLN. He can be reached at ken@sdgln.com, @KenSanDiego on Twitter, or by calling toll-free to 888-442-9639, ext. 713.

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