The Supreme Court of the United States is hearing its first major cases dealing with gay rights in 10 years on Tuesday (March 26), when the country’s top court hears arguments on California’s Proposition 8, or the ban on same-sex marriage.
On Wednesday (March 27), the nine justices will consider the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), which is the federal law that prohibits legally married homosexual couples from receiving a variety of benefits that are afford to married heterosexual couples.
The AP reports that people have been waiting in line since last Thursday to get seats to hear the arguments for and against Prop 8.
Two California couples, Kris Perry and Sandy Stier of Berkeley and Paul Katami and Jeff Zarrillo of Burbank, are challenging the ban, which was instituted by a popular vote. The couples are also urging the justices to not only overturn California’s provision, but to strike down amendments and statutes in every state that define marriage as between a man and a woman.
The couples see this case as the modern version of the 1967 Supreme Court decision Loving v. Virginia, which struck down state bans on interracial marriages.
Supporters of Prop 8 say that states have the right to make policies based on ballot measures and legislation, and that judicial decrees striking these bans down constitute legislating from the bench.
A figure to keep your eye on is Justice Anthony Kennedy, who wrote the Lawrence v. Texas decision in 2003 that prohibits states from criminalizing sexual relations between consenting adults. It was handed down in response to a Texas anti-sodomy law. At the time, known conservative Justice Antonin Scalia wrote in the dissent that the Lawrence decision would eventually lead to invalidating state laws against gay marriage.
While the arguments are being held Tuesday and Wednesday, the court will not be handing down its ruling until June.