Wednesday, April 29, 2015

SCOTUS Same-Sex Marriage Case: Post Oral Argument Discussion

Stuart Johnson/Deseret News

The justices in the Supreme Court yesterday seemed to embolden and discourage both parties in the fight for adding same-sex couples' ability to marry in the interpretation of the US Constitution. Justices Kennedy and Roberts both had questions that made them appear undecided on the outcome.

Most of the other Justices asked questions and challenged the respective lawyers that fell on the opposing side of their reputation.

Although Utah was not involved in the plaintiffs or defendants of this case, Utah played the key role to get the topic all the way up to the US Supreme Court. Gay Rights activists knew Utah would be the hardest state to win, and therefore chose Utah to be the grounds of the first battle. The Kitchen vs. Herbert case won rights for same-sex couples all the way up to the Supreme Court. But at the time the court was to decide cases to take on, all federal appeals courts were unified in their decisions to strike down gay marriage bans.

Since October of last year, the sixth District Court was the first to side with a state's ability to deny same-sex couples the ability to marry, causing a split in the lower courts. The US Supreme Court immediately took up the case, knowing it was a time-sensitive issue that the nation would like 50-state clarity for.

Kentucky, Michigan, Ohio, and Tennessee are the affected states, and the plaintiffs that were chosen to represent same-sex partners are all couples seeking marriage for joint parental custody of their children.

If the US Supreme Court rules in favor of same-sex couples' right to marry, nothing would change in the states where same-sex couples can currently marry. In the remaining 14 states where SSM is banned, the bans will be struck down and all couples in the US, straight or gay, can marry in any state of their choosing.

If the court rules in favor of states' rights, some experts have said it would be "chaos". There will be the question of whether the laws will unwind the families already legally sanctioned in several states. Hundreds of lawsuits would rush to the courts to secure or defend rights. Utah would be able to reinstate its ban on gay marriage as well as civil unions, preventing further same-sex marriage and potentially cancelling any that have occurred. It would be a historically devastating day to many, as well as a historically unique reversal of government-given rights and privileges.

For these very reasons are most skeptical that such a ruling would take place. Although it isn't impossible.

A ruling is expected no later than late June, but could come any day.

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