Marriage Equality: Today’s Historic Supreme Court Hearing

At 10 AM today, civil rights history will unfold in real time: the Supreme Court, in the words of SCOTUSBlog, “will hear one hour of oral arguments on the constitutionality of California’s Proposition 8, which amended that state’s constitution to prohibit same-sex marriages.” SCOTUSBlog will be an excellent source of information about the hearing, as will their Twitter feed. (We’ll be tweeting updates too.)

Tomorrow at 10 AM, the Court hears oral arguments on the constitutionality of the Defense of Marriage Act. The Human Rights Campaign made this nifty infographic on the two hearings:

SupremeCourt_Imageshare_whatsatstake.jpg

People began lining up last Thursday to be in today’s Court audience; those spots are selling for as much as $6,000.

The legal territory at stake in these cases includes the definition of homosexuality. As ThinkProgress writes,

At the core of conservatives’ argument against marriage equality in both cases is the idea that gay people actually do not exist — only “homosexual behavior” does. In House Republicans’ final reply brief filed this week against DOMA, attorney Paul Clement argued that “sexual orientation is defined by a tendency to engage in a particular kind of conduct.” Proponents of Prop 8 similarly suggested that “sexual orientation is a complex and amorphous phenomenon that defies consistent and uniform definition.” The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops added in its amicus brief that homosexuality is a “voluntary action” just like polygamy. In other words, people are only really gay when they’re having gay sex — otherwise they’re not.

Herein lies greatest challenge for gay and lesbian civil rights: the fact that sexual orientation is an invisible identity.

(Emphasis added.)

Advocates for equal rights are hoping for the Court to indicate that it is appropriate to treat sexual orientation with “heightened scrutiny”; that is the term for “how the Court determines that the government cannot target a specific group for unfair treatment without substantial justification.”

For more context, don’t miss this ThinkProgress post on “Four Ways the Supreme Court Could Knock Out Proposition 8.”

The Harman Firm will be watching with scrutiny and expectations as the oral arguments unfold. Check out this blog’s past coverage of civil rights, and contact us with any questions about employment law or discrimination.