Whilst we are somewhat fixated with the forthcoming General Election here, over in the USA the focus is on something that for the gay community is of even more significance.
Today the US Supreme Court will hear two-and-a-half hours of arguments about two questions that will finally determine the status of same-sex marriage for every single State. Currently, it is legal in 36 States.
It may seem complicated to us Brits but really the matter is quite simple and straightforward. What the Justices will be considering are this:-
1. Does the US Constitution’s Fourteenth Amendment require States to license a marriage between two people of the same sex?
2. Does the US Constitution’s Fourteenth Amendment require States to recognise the marriage between two people of the same sex when their marriage was lawfully licensed and performed elsewhere?
The procedure that follows is documented and must be strictly adhered too. Mary Bonauto from Gay & Lesbian Advocates & Defenders will lead off the arguments in favour of marriage equality for 30 minutes, followed by 15 minutes from Solicitor General Donald Verrilli Jr. Then, John Bursch, Michigan’s former solicitor general, will argue in defense of marriage bans for 45 minutes. Bonauto will then give a brief rebuttal.
Doug Hallward-Driemeier a former Assistant Solicitor General will lead off about 30 minutes of arguments on the recognition question, and Joseph Whalen from the Tennessee Attorney General’s Office will defend the recognition bans for 30 minutes. Finally, Hallward-Driemeier will give a brief rebuttal.
More than 150 briefs have been filed with the Justices, including the ones from the parties to the case, State Officials from Kentucky, Michigan, Ohio, or Tennessee and people challenging marriage or marriage recognition bans in each of those states. But most of the briefs are amicus curiae, or friend of the court, briefs, arguments made by people and groups not directly involved in the case but have an interest in the outcome and believe they have information of value or a viewpoint of interest to the court on the issues. There were 78 amicus briefs filed in support of the same-sex couples, including one filed by the Obama administration. And 67 amicus briefs were filed in support of the states, including one by the US Conference of Catholic Bishops.
A Ruling from the Justices is expected in June. With most of the recent Court Cases favouring same-sex marriage, and with the latest opinion polls showing an impressive 61% of all Americans in favour, most LGBT Agencies are ‘cautiously optimistic’ about the final outcome.