Supreme Court appears deeply divided over same-sex marriage
March 26th, 2013
12:40 PM ET

Supreme Court appears deeply divided over same-sex marriage

  • The Supreme Court is hearing two cases this week in the appeals to state and federal laws restricting same-sex marriage.
  • The court today first tackles an appeal of California's ban on same-sex marriage, known as Proposition 8.
  • Tomorrow, the justices will hear oral arguments over the federal Defense of Marriage Act.
  • Live updates below. Also, read the full story.

[Updated at 12:48 p.m. ET] We're signing off on this end for now - check out our main story for more detail and analysis as it comes today. We answer your questions here, and want to hear from you here.

Don't forget to join us again here tomorrow, when the Supreme Court hears the second round of debate on same-sex marriage: the Defense of Marriage Act.

[Updated at 12:31 p.m. ET] Director Rob Reiner, who watched today’s oral arguments, is a vocal critic against Proposition 8. Here's what he had to say after court adjourned:

“Today is a historic day for all those who believe in freedom and equality. After more than four years of working our case through victories at the federal District and Circuit courts, we finally had an opportunity today to present our arguments in support of marriage equality for gay and lesbian Americans before the highest court in the land. This case has always been about the love shared by two individuals and about the central promise from our nation’s founding that all men are created equal and are endowed with inalienable rights, including the pursuit of happiness.

[Updated at 12:11 p.m. ET] Andrew Pugno, general counsel for, tells reporters outside the court that he believes both sides of the argument have agreed that it is impossible to know with certainly how society would change by redefining "a fundamental institution such as marriage.

[Updated at 12:04 p.m. ET] “Today we feel we clearly presented the winning case for marriage,” says Andrew Pugno, general counsel for, who is speaking with reporters now.

[Updated at 12:01 p.m. ET] Charles Cooper, lead counsel defending Proposition 8, told reporters that he couldn't sum up his argument in a couple of sentences. "We believe Proposition 8 is constitutional," he said, making a brief statement.

[Updated at 11:48 a.m. ET] Kris Perry, a plaintiff in the Prop 8 case, just spoke, saying: "In this country as children, we learn that there's a founding principle, that all men and women are created equal. … Unfortunately with the passage of Proposition 8, we learned that there are group of people in California who are not being treated equally."

"We look forward to a day when prop 8 is officially eliminated and equality is restored to the state of California."

[Updated at 11:45 a.m. ET] Republican Ted Olson and Democrat David Boies, who joined forces to argue against Prop 8, are speaking outside the courthouse now. What's important from today, Olson said, is "the American people were listening to the argument. The other side, nobody really offered a defense."

"We're very gratified they listened, they heard, they asked hard questions, (but) there is no denying where the right is, and we hope the court (rules that way) in June."

[Updated at 11:43 a.m. ET] According to Toobin, there were a lot of questions along these lines from Justices Scalia and Alito: We don’t know the effects of same sex parenting on children, so why don’t we wait and let the states go experiment? Why do we, the Supreme Court, have to get involved in this process?

Toobin said Roberts also seemed sympathetic to these questions.

[Updated at 11:39 a.m. ET] The attorney general and the governor of California have refused to defend Prop 8. So the question, Toobin says, is "Who can defend the law? Who has the standing?" The answer to that question will be key to resolving the case.

Conservative Justices Scalia, Alito and Roberts were "very hostile of idea of the court imposing same sex marriage," according to Toobin. The four Democratic justices seemed favorably disposed.

Justice Kennedy seemed like he was in the middle, he said things that would "give comfort for both sides," Toobin says. Kennedy suggested the issue was brought prematurely before the court.

[Updated at 11:37 a.m. ET] The justices seemed very focused on how Prop 8 affects children, with Justice Kagan at some point suggesting that California have a law allowing same-sex marriage for people past child-bearing age, Toobin said.

Kagan said, according to Toobin: “I assure you if two 55 year old people, there aren’t a lot of children (coming from that marriage).”

[Updated at 11:34 a.m. ET] "This was a deeply divided Supreme Court, a court that seemed groping for answers," CNN senior legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin said after watching the arguments. "Now I think its even harder to predict the result of this case after hearing this argument."

[Updated at 11:31 a.m. ET] Oral arguments have wrapped up, according to CNN Supreme Court producer Bill Mears. They went just a bit over schedule, lasting about one hour and 20 minutes.

[Updated at 11:23 a.m. ET] While we wait on word from the courthouse, consider this: A new CNN/ORC International Poll indicates that 53% of Americans support same-sex marriage. In the same survey, 57% of respondents said they had a family member or close friend who is gay or lesbian.

Here's a look at the issue, by the numbers.

[Updated at 11:06 a.m. ET] The same-sex marriage debate is a huge issue, and the lawyers inside were penciled in for an hour to make their cases. Doesn't sound like much time, but to be fair, the oral arguments regarding the Affordable Care Act (aka "Obamacare") last March lasted roughly two hours.

Tomorrow's DOMA arguments have been given one hour and 50 minutes. We'll see if they stay on schedule today.

[Updated at 10:46 a.m. ET] If all is going to plan, Jean Podrasky, a lesbian whose first cousin happens to be Chief Justice John Roberts, is inside the court hearing the arguments.

"I know that my cousin is a good man," she wrote in an op-ed this week. "I feel confident that John is wise enough to see that society is becoming more accepting of the humanity of same-sex couples and the simple truth that we deserve to be treated with dignity, respect, and equality under the law."

You might see a lot of red avatars with a “=” equal sign in your Twitter feed today. Supporters of marriage rights for same-sex couples are wearing red today to show their support – both on their persons and their social media accounts. That includes Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley.

[Updated at 10:39 a.m. ET] You can find a reminder of who’s who among the nine justices here.

Try clicking on each photo to learn more about the men and women who will decide the legal fate of same-sex marriage (for now anyway) – see where they were born and educated, their career highlights and their religion.

[Updated at 10:30 a.m. ET] Inside, we expect Republican Ted Olson and Democrat David Boies joining forces in pushing for legal recognition of same-sex marriage. Prominent Washington attorney Charles Cooper will lead the defense of Proposition 8, the California referendum against same-sex marriage.

Fun fact: Olson and Boies argued opposite sides of the landmark 2000 Bush v. Gore case, which decided that presidential election.

[Updated at 10:23 a.m. ET] The temperature is rising a bit and so is the volume. Thousands have amassed in front of the U.S. Supreme court as the morning warms up.

If everything is proceeding as scheduled, oral arguments should be getting started inside the courtroom.

[Updated at 10:11 a.m. ET] The atmosphere probably pretty somber inside the court, but outside the speakers are blaring with music and the occasional chant: "Gay, straight, black, white - marriage is a civil right!"

CNN contributors David Frum and LZ Granderson have both taken to the mic, keeping the crowd charged up.

"No agency of the government can do for anyone what loving spouses do for each other," Frum said. "Today your families gather before this house of law to claim the right to live as others do without fear."

"I did not come here to ask anybody permission to love. I did not come here to (seek ) approval," said Granderson. "… I am here because 14 times the Supreme Court (ruled that marriage is) a fundamental right, and gay and lesbian couples deserve their fundamental rights!”

"Same-sex couples are not here asking for a seat at the table because we've always been here," he added. "We're not here at the steps of Supreme Court to beg. ... I too sing, America."

[Updated at 10 a.m. ET] Nope, we don't have cameras in the courtroom, but the high court should be in session at this point. After a few minutes of routine business, oral arguments should get underway at about 10:15 a.m. In addition to Jeffrey Toobin, CNN has Correspondent Joe Johns and Supreme Court producer Bill Mears watching the arguments firsthand. Stay tuned here for developments.

[Updated at 9:50 a.m. ET] As the justices gather, the court of public opinion is already weighing in - certainly on Twitter. At 9:30 a.m. ET, five of the top U.S. trends were related to the hearing today. Though, this being Twitter, #ThoughtsInBed was also riding high.

Here’s what some people are saying:

And pics from our senior legal analyst:

[Updated at 9:43 a.m. ET] Today's arguments have sparked conversation beyond the steps of the Supreme Court. Supporters and opponents of same-sex marriage are capturing the moment on social media. Here's one from NOH8 Campaign, who support marriage equality:

Opponents of same-sex marriage have also shown up in droves in Washington, but the rallies have kept peaceful. Here's a tweet from Alliance Defending Freedom:

[Updated at 9:26 a.m. ET] Less than an hour away from the start of oral arguments and protests outside the Supreme Court are gaining momentum. Supporters of same-sex marriage and LGBT rights are holding a rally, celebrating the historic significance of today's events.

"We are all participants of American history today - let's get this party started!" two of the organizers shouted at a cheering audience.

The crowd is holding signs, saying, "Married with pride" and "Marriage is love, commitment and family."

"Condemn hatred, embrace marriage!" the crowd chanted.

Among the speakers is retired Lt. Col. Linda Campbell, a 25-year military veteran, who was allowed to bury her partner, Nancy Lynchild, at Willamette National Cemetery. It is believed to be the first case of its kind, the same-sex spouse of a member of the military to be buried in a national cemetery.

"I know the spirit of my spouse Nancy is smiling on us today," Campbell said today.

[Updated at 8:34 a.m. ET] Looks like Justice Kennedy will definitely be the one to watch today.

"What am I looking to? Justice Kennedy in his questioning," said California Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom who, as San Francisco mayor in 2004, stoked controversy by ordering City Hall to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples.

He told CNN's "Starting Point" this morning that Kennedy would be key because he wrote the majority opinion in the 1996 case of Romer V. Evans in Colorado. The case dealt with Amendment 2, a Colorado initiative that banned state government from passing laws prohibiting discrimination against the LGBT community. The Supreme Court struck down the law in a 6-3 vote.

[Updated at 8:15 a.m. ET] Protesters are braving temperatures in 30s outside the high court this morning to make their stand in the same-sex marriage debate. Rainbow flags are flapping next to American ones as demonstrators bundled in thick coats and scarves hold up banners reading "The nation is ready for Marriage Equality" and "Faith Alliance to preserve the sanctity of marriage as defined by God."

[Updated at 7:55 a.m. ET] Today's oral arguments will focus on Proposition 8, a ballot initiative that was approved by California voters in a 52-48% vote in November 2008. The vote happened less than six months after the state Supreme Court ruled marriage was a fundamental right that must be extended to same-sex couples.

Its approval immediately ended same-sex marriages in the state, but opponents of the measure challenged it in court and have succeeded in convincing federal judges at the district and appellate levels to find the ban unconstitutional.

The Supreme Court will open its doors to the public and the media at 8 a.m. ET, two hours before oral arguments are scheduled to start.

[Updated at 7:23 a.m. ET] The justice to keep an eye on is Anthony Kennedy, who may be the crucial fifth vote on either side, says CNN's senior legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin.

"I will be listening to what Justice Anthony Kennedy says," Toobin said about the oral arguments. The four Democratic appointees - Justices Ginsburg, Breyer, Sotomayor and Kagan - will likely all vote for marriage equality.

"The most likely person to give the fifth vote is Anthony Kennedy," Toobin said.

Toobin likened the same-sex marriage argument to Loving v. Virginia, a landmark civil rights decision by the Supreme Court in 1967 that deemed laws prohibiting interracial marriages unconstitutional.

[Posted at 7:11 a.m. ET] Supreme Court justices this morning will launch an epic dialogue when they hear oral arguments in the first of two appeals to state and federal laws restricting same-sex marriage.

The first round today will deal with an appeal of California's Proposition 8, which defines marriage as between a man and a woman. The second round, scheduled for tomorrow, will tackle the 1996 federal Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) and a constitutional appeal over same-sex marriage and "equal protection."

The arguments will start at 10 a.m. ET today, but don't expect a decision until at least June.

soundoff (585 Responses)
  1. ben afleck

    I think marriage on both sides should be illegal because many deaths are caused over this.

    March 26, 2013 at 11:16 am | Report abuse |
  2. Mr Obvious

    Well I am sorry but you "not normal" folks just dont get the very very simple fact that if you are allowed to do this then it will become that much more "normal" which is what you want, BUT you CAN NOT deny the FACT that when you are allowed to raise children (the next logical step for your attempt to make gay normal) these absolutely innocent "VICTIMS" (children) WILL BE AFFECTED by your everyday gay ways that cannot be ignored by said innocent child. Please remember that a child is like a dry sponge and soaks up every bit of everything they see and experience, so if you think they are not affected heavily then you are denying reality. I KNOW THIIS FOR SURE because we see it every day in our office (children of gays TOO OFTEN become gay themselves for no other reason than it is literally all they have ever known) PLEASE REMEMBER THE INNOCENTS, THEY DON'T DESERVE WHAT YOU ARE OFFERING.

    March 26, 2013 at 11:18 am | Report abuse |
  3. rkdres

    First of all, I could care less who gets married. I am not for it OR against it. That said, why is it that the gay agenda is practically always represented on the CNN homepage, and likely the top trending story on many days?? It serves as a distraction from far more important things going on in the world...yes I said it, there are far more importa

    March 26, 2013 at 11:19 am | Report abuse |
    • rkdres

      ...important issues today

      March 26, 2013 at 11:19 am | Report abuse |
    • Greg

      I'm sure people were saying the same thing when newspapers were covering the civil rights SCOTUS cases in the 60's. These are (at least could and should be) landmark civil rights cases in the same vein as Brown vs. Board, etc. Of course, the news is covering it heavily.

      March 26, 2013 at 11:28 am | Report abuse |
    • wisdomVSknowledge

      Importance is a matter of perspective. To you it is no big deal, to gays it is a serious matter of equality. If you pay the same taxes as everyone else but yet you are denied privileges, it is important. Ask black people if equality is important and you'll open up a serious debate. Our government is not to make any law that favors religion views, yet Californian did so, as well as many other states. Those laws were wrong.... by law. This process is necessary in order to right the wrong.

      March 26, 2013 at 11:32 am | Report abuse |
    • Kalyn


      March 26, 2013 at 11:33 am | Report abuse |
    • nilla

      The problem is that there are ALWAYS "more important" issues. There's human trafficking going on all over the world and we're worried about guns being banned and reducing the debt? An asteroid could destroy this planet and we're concerned about health care laws and voter ID?

      March 26, 2013 at 11:34 am | Report abuse |
    • CK

      If not for moral reasons, you should be concerned because of selfish reasons. Discriminating against any group (minority or not) for religious or traditional reasons or for no reason is a mighty slippery slope. Your rights could be the next to go. We should all enjoy the same legal rights by simply being a citizen of this country. That's why this is important to all.

      March 26, 2013 at 11:39 am | Report abuse |
    • KT

      I would say that judging by the number of comments to this story that a great number of people care a great deal about this issue. I think that perhaps is why CNN is covering it 😉

      March 26, 2013 at 12:25 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Sam

    God defined Marriage between a man and a woman! Marriage between two men or two women is an abomination in the eyes of the Lord!

    March 26, 2013 at 11:19 am | Report abuse |
    • rkdres

      You spoke to god about this?

      March 26, 2013 at 11:22 am | Report abuse |
    • banasy©

      This is a civil issue, not a religious issue. God does not enter into it.

      March 26, 2013 at 11:22 am | Report abuse |
    • Dana

      Was it Zeus?

      March 26, 2013 at 11:24 am | Report abuse |
    • Sam

      So God is not interested in Civil issues? Especially ones who oppose what God had written in the Bible about men sleeping with men in the book of Leviticus? I think God cares, especially when we disobey what he commands us to do. Ignorance spreads like a disease.

      March 26, 2013 at 11:25 am | Report abuse |
    • GJS1987

      Since when have we become a Christian Republic? First time I've heard of it!

      March 26, 2013 at 11:25 am | Report abuse |
    • Scott

      Exodus 35:2 "On six days work may be done, but the seventh day shall be sacred to you as the sabbath of complete rest to the LORD. Anyone who does work on that day shall be put to death." So I ask, my friend insisted on doing some catch-up work on Sunday last week and missed our soccer what should be his method of execution?

      "God" said a lot of things....

      March 26, 2013 at 11:26 am | Report abuse |
    • Mr Dalloway

      There is no god but please continue.....

      March 26, 2013 at 11:27 am | Report abuse |
    • Court

      We've already redefined marriage by allowing divorce. There are numerous passages in the bible that flat out say that divorce and remarriage is NOT allowed. PERIOD. Remarriage is considered adultry and is an abomination. Where are the protesters against remarriage? Why do churches celebrate second, third, fourth, etc marriages and not hold true to the biblical rule that, if you choose to break your vow to god and your spouse, that you are NOT allowed to enter into a marriage with another person?

      March 26, 2013 at 11:30 am | Report abuse |
    • Sven

      Tell me, Sam:
      What gives your specific religion the special privilege of defining what marriage is for all Americans? Do you think all Americans, including non-Christians, should be required to live according to Biblical law? If so, how do you reconcile this with the Establishment Clause? Do you even know what the Establishment Clause is?

      March 26, 2013 at 11:30 am | Report abuse |
    • nilla

      You know what would be cool? If God would have a press conference and clear this all up. We should demand transparency at ALL levels of government, including the highest office in the univers.

      March 26, 2013 at 11:32 am | Report abuse |
    • mrdeepblue

      Huuuu my son I never said that, you twist my words. off to purgatory.

      March 26, 2013 at 11:32 am | Report abuse |
    • Dana

      so let your imaginary friend deal with it

      March 26, 2013 at 11:33 am | Report abuse |
    • Sam

      Whether we are Christian or Atheist God is real, and his commandments apply to the believers and non believers. Hell is a place for bad Christians and Atheists. I doubt he will let people go to Heaven just because they did not believe in him. So what you committed heinous crimes, you did not believe it was bad so come on in. God gives men and women the chance to repent and those who do not will receive their reward. Even if the Supreme Court or Obama said it was ok, God still says it is not.

      March 26, 2013 at 11:55 am | Report abuse |
  5. banasy©

    Slama, you might have a point if the law were changed to make you marry a gay person. Your rights to marry who you please as a straight person wouldn't be affected AT ALL. Stop the slippery slope nonsense.

    March 26, 2013 at 11:20 am | Report abuse |
  6. The Truth

    This stupid far left wing article should read "Redefining Marriage". Shows the stupidity and and manipulativeness of the author.

    March 26, 2013 at 11:20 am | Report abuse |
  7. Sam

    I think there is plenty of room in Canada for all the Gay people who want to get married. And we would be happy if they stayed there. Take Piers Morgan with you!

    March 26, 2013 at 11:20 am | Report abuse |
    • Joseph

      Have you told your sister and cousins that they must move to Cananda?

      March 26, 2013 at 11:41 am | Report abuse |
    • Sam

      I do not have any gay cousins, I think you were thinking of somebody else.

      March 26, 2013 at 11:56 am | Report abuse |
    • Ron

      I wouldn't mind if the whole city of San Fran broke off and floated to Canada

      March 26, 2013 at 12:07 pm | Report abuse |
    • Ron

      And they can take all their whips, leather-studded s&m outfits, ball gags, and spandex with them !

      March 26, 2013 at 12:14 pm | Report abuse |
    • Joseph

      Well Sam, we all have the privilege of having such a relative, whether it is sister, cousin, uncle, etc. Instead of forcing them in the closet when you are around, try to open up to the will love them just as much or more.

      March 26, 2013 at 12:34 pm | Report abuse |
  8. sick oif the madness!

    liberal nuts trying to change reality, Marriage is for A MAN AND A WOMAN! ONLY –

    March 26, 2013 at 11:21 am | Report abuse |
    • Dana

      according to your book of fables

      March 26, 2013 at 11:25 am | Report abuse |
    • Macmaven

      Maybe the next fairy tale book will outlaw obese people from getting married. Or wait, how about the galactically stupid are barred from procreating. Oh wait, then you might have a problem...

      March 26, 2013 at 11:34 am | Report abuse |
    • KAHD

      The reality is that sometimes 2 people of the same gender fall in love and want to get married. That's the reality. You're the one trying to change it by saying that they're not allowed to.

      March 26, 2013 at 11:36 am | Report abuse |
  9. chatmandu002

    If you change the definition of marriage for one group, you have to change it for all groups. How does a ruling for gay marriage also not allow for polygamy. It's about their rights and love.

    March 26, 2013 at 11:23 am | Report abuse |
    • cedar rapids

      if they can figure out the legalities of it then go ahead and campaign for it, i wont try to introduce a bill against it.

      March 26, 2013 at 12:49 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Brad

    This is not a case about weither sissy boys (and girls) can get married........this is a case that will effect ALOT more than just weither gays can marry......this case today is going to decide weither our votes as a people actually count.....more states have said NO to this issue and here soon we will find out if "We the People" actually can be heard via the ballot box or weither "We the Governed" are just sheep to be led by the government........wake up america!

    March 26, 2013 at 11:23 am | Report abuse |
    • Jeff

      Brad, it's "whether", not "weither". Lack of spelling ability significantly detracts from your credibility on this issue. Have a nice day.

      March 26, 2013 at 11:42 am | Report abuse |
    • Joseph

      Your argument failed over and over again in history as people "woke up" on equal rights issues.

      March 26, 2013 at 11:46 am | Report abuse |
  11. Sean

    Leave it up to the states to decide. If a state recognizes it, so be it, if not, then don't. The federal government shouldn't meddle in states jurisdiction.

    March 26, 2013 at 11:29 am | Report abuse |
    • Really?

      This is about civil rights so yes that's why the gov't is involved.

      March 26, 2013 at 11:33 am | Report abuse |
    • nilla

      I read that argument was used a lot in the late 1800s, too.

      March 26, 2013 at 11:41 am | Report abuse |
  12. jwilhelm1

    I'm just assuming that anyone who opposes gay marriage also wants to go back to the time when women were seen and not heard in the kitchen and African-Americans "knew their place."

    March 26, 2013 at 11:29 am | Report abuse |
    • Adam

      Well then maybe you should recalibrate your assumptions

      March 26, 2013 at 11:33 am | Report abuse |
  13. Adam

    So the same government that cant pass a budget or maintain a good credit rating is going to tell me how to define marriage? I'm sold.

    None of our governments business.

    March 26, 2013 at 11:30 am | Report abuse |
  14. Gandhi

    To all my gay friends and famliy it should be a great day...the wind is blowing in the right direction and the country is ready for change. If your silly little god hates this so much why don't he stop it? Gods law is made up in your heads, please have them checked asap

    March 26, 2013 at 11:32 am | Report abuse |
    • Mr Obvious

      To all your gay friends "Please stop attempting to corrupt and destroy innocent child victims by raising them as gay!!!!"

      March 26, 2013 at 11:35 am | Report abuse |
    • Seriously?

      @Mr. Obvious Your argument is worn out. Please so me scientific evidence that proves gay people are trying to subvert American culture by raising an entire generation of gays? WONT SOMEONE PLEASE THINK OF THE CHILDREN!!

      March 26, 2013 at 12:50 pm | Report abuse |
    • cedar rapids

      'Mr Obvious – To all your gay friends "Please stop attempting to corrupt and destroy innocent child victims by raising them as gay!!!!"'

      Dont be a fool, they dont raise their kids to be gay, they just raise their kids, same as we raise ours.

      March 26, 2013 at 12:51 pm | Report abuse |
  15. Stephen

    ybm you say that HIV was a gift from god to the gays then I guess my question would be why is it more prevalent in the straights??? marriage is a civil right my personal belief is that the word marraige should be taken out of all laws and changed to civil union so gay or straight its a civil union the word marraige is a religous word and has no place inside our laws as church and state shall be separate.

    March 26, 2013 at 11:33 am | Report abuse |
    • Sam

      You are an ignorant man and I wish people like you would go to a country that has been ruined by ignorant people. Plenty of countries have wiped religion from their laws and made men less free because of stupid people. This country is not all the way there yet, so please leave and never come back.

      March 26, 2013 at 12:03 pm | Report abuse |
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