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. TheFinal Word

    Marriage is a union between a man and a woman, I don't care what the court rules. Just because of a vocal minority(gay people) this is even a debate.

    March 26, 2013 at 12:00 pm | Report abuse |
    • Joseph

      Go ahead live in your own world. Your final word is worthless outside your world.

      March 26, 2013 at 12:27 pm | Report abuse |
    • sam stone

      marriage is what the court says it is. if you do not like it, too bad. eat your sidearm

      March 26, 2013 at 12:27 pm | Report abuse |
    • sam stone

      if it were just gays supporting this, it would not be an issue. straights are tired of the bigotry toward gays

      March 26, 2013 at 12:28 pm | Report abuse |
    • Joe

      We declare our right on this earth to be a man, to be a human being, to be respected as a human being, to be given the rights of a human being in this society, on this earth, in this day, which we intend to bring into existence by any means necessary.
      —Malcolm X, 1965[2]

      March 26, 2013 at 1:20 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Cletus

    Let them marry. Whay shouldn't they have the opportunity to be as miserable as the rest of us.

    March 26, 2013 at 12:01 pm | Report abuse |
    • Max (in gay relationship for 13years)

      LMAO @ Cletus.. okay?

      March 26, 2013 at 12:31 pm | Report abuse |
  3. SCParegien

    Is it possible to live south of the Mason Dixon line?

    March 26, 2013 at 12:01 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Walter

    Once this ruling is over, what on earth will GNN have to report on?

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

    i guess the next line to cross will be incest related relationships, right?
    Brother /Sister etc.... after all, its about whatever FEELS good. right?
    Animals have better self control than some of you people.

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

      Or someone will say that they want to marry their horse b/c a human cannot satisfy them. Where does it end if this becomes acceptable in society.

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

      I hope it ends before some poor soul thinks it is okay to marry tBone or VOS!

      March 26, 2013 at 12:29 pm | Report abuse |
    • sam stone

      VOS: When your horse can sign a consent form, you can marry her. Until then, you and Bessie will just have to live in sin

      March 26, 2013 at 12:30 pm | Report abuse |
    • VOS

      Oh sammy, just b/c the supreme court is going to uphold prop 8, don't get all emotional here and start spewing insults b/c someone does not agree with you pounding from behind.

      March 26, 2013 at 12:52 pm | Report abuse |
    • cedar rapids

      When you spout nonsense such as 'Or someone will say that they want to marry their horse b/c a human cannot satisfy them' then you deserve the ridicule you get.

      March 26, 2013 at 1:07 pm | Report abuse |
  6. awaiting moderation

    How is this argument any different than the ones who believe in the Second Amendment?How many more of our laws will be challenged as one at a time they are eaten away? Will the law against murder be next, or robbery, or nay of the other rules we grew up with? when does the rule of law become null and void?

    March 26, 2013 at 12:07 pm | Report abuse |
  7. wisdomVSknowledge

    Gay people have been on this planet since 10,000 BC, maybe longer. Don't belive me? In ancient Greece they have a museum full of clay pottery and other artifacts of gay origin. They were once referred to as the third gender and still are in many countries. People fear what they don't understand. So, understand this... gays are a segment of society that influences fashion, fine dining, technology, art, dancing, music, etc, etc, etc. the world without gay people would lack a great deal of creativity. Most of America has yet to comprehend their value as employees. Which is why Amazon, Disney World, and many other companys are supportive of gay marriage. A happy employee is a productive employee and gays have already proven to be among the best people you can hire to get a job done and get it done right.

    So, don't cut your nose off to spite your face.

    March 26, 2013 at 12:08 pm | Report abuse |
  8. Tiznizzle12

    Soccer is gay.

    March 26, 2013 at 12:08 pm | Report abuse |
  9. kharmahunter

    I can't believe that CNN thinks gays and lesbians have only been raising children for a few years. There are children of gay/lesbians that now have children of their own. Did you mean it was new to you in the last few years?

    March 26, 2013 at 12:08 pm | Report abuse |
    • Mr Obvious

      Nothing at all to do with religious beliefs.


      March 26, 2013 at 12:27 pm | Report abuse |
    • cedar rapids

      Dont be an i diot all your life, you cant 'raise' someone gay.

      March 26, 2013 at 12:29 pm | Report abuse |
    • narfzort

      did you bother to read anything more than the headline? cnn, as useless as it is, is not in question here. IT WAS THE JUSTICES THEMSELVES who apparently aren't aware of how long these people have been rearing children. their children have children of their own? how would you propose that message comes out? that's right. it's the responsibility of the lawyers to get that message to the justices.

      March 26, 2013 at 12:30 pm | Report abuse |
    • Seriously?

      @Mr. Obivious – I wonder how many of them are hate mongers that hide behind the bible. Man wouldnt that be WEIRD!!

      March 26, 2013 at 12:56 pm | Report abuse |
  10. blake

    More far left nonsense from the good folks at CNN. Seeking to destroy many of the traditional instiutions that are the backbone of this nation.

    March 26, 2013 at 12:09 pm | Report abuse |
    • Ryan

      Just remember you'll be remembered in the same light as the segregationists...bigot.

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

      Your statement could have been used by previous generations of "conservatives" to argue in support of slavery, segregation, or exclusion of women or blacks from the voting process. You are an enemy of liberty and the American tradition of civil rights, freedom, and equality. You are on the wrong side of history. Your children and grandchildren will be appalled at your stance here, as the grandchildren of the racists who supported Jim Crow are today.

      March 26, 2013 at 12:17 pm | Report abuse |
    • Pastapharian

      Marriage and it's associated 50% divorce rate is the backbone of this country? Sh

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

      Yawn. Save your breath. When 80% of Americans under the age of 25 want something to's just a matter of time...tick tock.

      March 26, 2013 at 12:28 pm | Report abuse |
    • Seth

      Enjoy fading into irrelevance.

      March 26, 2013 at 12:34 pm | Report abuse |
    • Bob

      Please go apologize to every black person you know. I appreciate that you copy/paste the same stuff everywhere, but gay is not black. You can wake up tomorrow and be something different; I have friends that go back and forth, so don't give me the "born this way" line or compare yourself to an ethnicity. At least try to be honest.

      March 26, 2013 at 1:14 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Vincent

    This is the kind of thing that can make our country look weak, limp-wristed & effeminate.

    Here's to hoping we can put this one to rest finally & keep marriage normal...between men & women. No....I'm not religious.

    March 26, 2013 at 12:09 pm | Report abuse |
    • JocMe

      Normal YES please. I want my children growing up to witness a man and a woman married, having children of their own
      and not trying to understand why two persons who anatomically are not made for one another unite(regardless of feelings), the body was designed for a lock and key.

      March 26, 2013 at 12:17 pm | Report abuse |
    • Really?

      "I want my children growing up to witness a man and a woman married, having children of their own"

      Social science has shown that the concerns often raised about children of lesbian and gay parents—concerns that are generally grounded in prejudice against and stereotypes about gay people—are unfounded. Overall, the research indicates that the children of lesbian and gay parents do not differ from the children of heterosexual parents in their development, adjustment, or overall well-being.

      March 26, 2013 at 12:24 pm | Report abuse |
    • end3r

      No, the bans on equality make our country look like it's from another era and weakly focused on ancient religious tradition instead of logical modern morality. Equality measures like this show the world we can still lead as opposed to being weighed down by edicts of 2,000+ year old mythology and fantasy.

      March 26, 2013 at 12:25 pm | Report abuse |
    • Pastapharian

      Sure. As soon as divorce is outlawed, your ridiculous argument will make sense.

      March 26, 2013 at 12:28 pm | Report abuse |
    • Vince

      Don't worry...if it doesn't work out in your favor there are a few countries left, besides ours, where it isn't legal. I hear the Congo is pretty this time of year.

      March 26, 2013 at 12:29 pm | Report abuse |
    • David

      "Don't worry...if it doesn't work out in your favor there are a few countries left, besides ours, where it isn't legal. "

      DOMA has been ruled unconstitutional by 8 appellate courts. So when you loose maybe should should move to another country.

      March 26, 2013 at 12:35 pm | Report abuse |
    • Ryan Brady

      The only thing that will make us look weak is lacking the courage to extend fundamental rights to all citizens.

      March 26, 2013 at 12:40 pm | Report abuse |
  12. awaiting moderation

    We have the inner city mentality running our country. Welcome to progress, unlike what we see in Detroit or our capitol of Washington DC.

    March 26, 2013 at 12:12 pm | Report abuse |
  13. wisdomVSknowledge

    The south is currently has the strong economy in the country. Charlotte, NC is the fastest growing city. Why? Because many from the north or retiring in the sunny south and finding it to be full or charm, manners, and opportunities. Since you are so far off target on that issue, you obviously need to reconsider your position on gay people.

    March 26, 2013 at 12:12 pm | Report abuse |
  14. timeismoney

    The divorse rate for gays is higher than for straight couples. Too bad.

    March 26, 2013 at 12:13 pm | Report abuse |
    • Brian

      Really how can that be? If we can't even marry!! Also isn't the divorce rate 50% for straight couples?

      March 26, 2013 at 12:18 pm | Report abuse |
    • Brad

      Divorce* and where did you pull that stat from?

      March 26, 2013 at 12:21 pm | Report abuse |
  15. ScottCA

    America still has so much growing up to do. America has been slow on providing proper human rights to all its citizens. And slow in reducing violence, and restricting firearms and deadly weapons, compared to other developed nations.

    March 26, 2013 at 12:13 pm | Report abuse |
    • awaiting moderation

      I like that word "providing", covers a lot of territory in today's world. You will find it will get less in the"providing" department.

      March 26, 2013 at 12:19 pm | Report abuse |
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