By McClatchy Washington Bureau March 26, 2013 6:55 am
WASHINGTON — California Attorney General Kamala Harris and unemployed consultant Jason Wonacott both earned their way into the Supreme Court for Tuesday’s oral arguments over gay marriage.
A Benicia, Calif., native and University of Washington graduate, Wonacott secured his seat in the courtroom by showing up outside at 10 a.m. Friday. He was number 13 in line, a place he held over four occasionally snowy days and nights, all to hear one hour of argument about California’s Proposition 8, which bans gay marriage.
“I’m gay,” explained Wonacott, who’s 25, “and I would like to get married someday.”
The Proposition 8 case marks the first time that the Supreme Court has considered whether the Constitution protects a right to gay marriage, and, if so, under what circumstances. While the case is remarkable enough on its own, it will be followed Wednesday by oral arguments over whether the Defense of Marriage Act improperly denies federal benefits to same-sex couples who are married under state law, in a case called United States v. Windsor.
Both cases have drawn widespread attention.
The justices must sort through about 90 friend-of-the-court briefs, as well as various extrajudicial efforts to sway opinion. On Monday, dozens of companies, from Amazon to Viacom, including such blue chip corporate institutions as Walt Disney, Goldman Sachs and CBS, took the unusual step of paying for full-page ads in The New York Times and The Washington Post to declare that “America’s leading businesses agree: Same-sex couples deserve to be treated equally.”
Both cases appear headed for close decisions, with the court split between liberals and conservatives. Both may be decided either narrowly or broadly. The Proposition 8 case, in particular, might be decided in a way that applies only to California, or to a handful of states in addition to California, or to all 50 states at once.
“They understand the debate that’s roiling in the country,” San Francisco City Attorney Dennis Herrera said in an interview Monday. “They recognize the importance of this issue.”
San Francisco officials propelled the debate by legalizing gay marriage in February 2004. Several thousand same-sex couples were married before the state Supreme Court blocked the city’s action. Herrera then sued to challenge the constitutionality of marriage laws that discriminate against same-sex couples.
The California Supreme Court recognized same-sex marriage rights in May 2008, after which about 18,000 same-sex couples were married. In November 2008, the state’s voters, by 52 to 48 percent, approved Proposition 8, which amended the California Constitution to declare that “only marriage between a man and a woman is valid or recognized” in the state.
The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, in turn, struck down Proposition 8 in a way that didn’t affect other states. The appellate court, stressing the “unique and strictly limited” nature of its ruling, concluded in February 2012 that “the people may not employ the initiative power to single out a disfavored group for unequal treatment and strip them, without a legitimate justification, of a right as important as the right to marry.”
Three attorneys will argue the case. Charles Cooper, a former Reagan administration appointee who unsuccessfully argued on behalf of Proposition 8 during a San Francisco trial and at the appellate court, will make a return appearance. He’ll be opposed once more by Theodore Olson, a former Bush administration solicitor general. Speaking on behalf of the Obama administration, also in opposition to Proposition 8, will be Solicitor General Donald Verrilli.
The courtroom proper can seat about 400 spectators, in addition to 82 press seats in a hallway. Each of the attorneys who’s arguing receives six tickets. Olson, for instance, is using four of his for the two California couples whose names are on the lawsuit challenging Proposition 8.
Said Jason Wonacott, “I’m gay and I’d like to get married some day.”
Here’s my answer:
One might as well say, “I’m five feet tall and I’d like to play on a champion basketball team.”
Life is what it is. If you aren’t heterosexual you aren’t marriage material. If you’re short you can’t successfully perform activities that require height. Nobody gets to do everything they want in life.
Even if you can manipulate the SCOTUS to feel sorry for you because you can’t do everything you want in life, it is NOT the government’s business to twist words around to attempt to redefine reality, in Orwellian fashion, to suit your whims. Once the government begins to redefine the meaning of legal terms, we no longer have the rule of law and the powers of government are effectively unlimited. The next victim of that could be YOU.
…Walter Isaacson [said] that the Supreme Court justices would make their ruling based not on what the Constitution or the law says, but on what a particular Judge might fear their Wikipedia Entry might look like in a year or two.
Run that through your head for a second, this journalist (journo-list), this acclaimed author and head of a “non-partisan” organization is suggesting that Supreme Court should rule based on the fear of what someone might put in a Wikipedia entry in a few years and not a single person at that table took exception to the concept of justice by Wikipedia Entry
Imagine for a second if things like the 1st amendment or the 2nd amendment or freedom of religion took place were decided not by the written constitution, not by law or precedent, but on the fear that someone might think of them as “not progressive enough”.
If you aren’t horrified by this, then frankly you don’t deserve the right that our forefathers fought for…
I’m horrified all right, no question about that
Wikipedia is a reflection of transitory public opinion.
Despite the management’s insistence on a “neutral point of view,” it is as full of biases as anything else. Unlike the meaning of legal terms, entries in Wikipedia are supposed to be flexible; editors update or delete material based on their assessment of current popular tastes, opinions, and levels of interest. Wikipedia posts a sharp warning that a Wikipedia article about oneself is not an unmixed blessing and that problems may arise. Using Wikipedia as a gauge of anyone’s success in life is just pathetic. Relying on it as a moral compass is dangerous.
Changing the legal meaning of the word “marriage” sets a bad precedent. It means that anyone with an agenda can rewrite the meaning of any legal term by using political and media pressure to garner a majority vote on the US Supreme Court. But there’s no stopping that process. Once legal terms have no fixed meaning, all bets are off, and the rights you thought you still had will be interpreted away.
It requires no insight – just eyesight – to observe that human beings are unequal in the talents and gifts that suit us for various roles in life. No government can repeal that reality, other than by sending everyone to the equality of the mass grave. Equal protection under the law means just that. It does not mean redefining the words of the law at every turn to guarantee all players equal scores in their pursuit of happiness, as each of them defines it. That way lies madness.