Richard A. Roane, American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers Michigan Chapter
President Partner, Warner Norcross & Judd LLP

In my capacity as Chair of the newly formed LGBT/Alternative Family Committee of the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers, I attended oral arguments this morning on one of the two marriage equality cases being submitted to the Supreme Court.

Yesterday's case was Hollingsworth v. Perry, which addresses Proposition 8 (the California Law banning same-sex marriage whose constitutionality is being decided). 

An all-night curbside wait in 37 degree weather was tempered by the hopeful mood of hundreds of people in the lines, some having waited since last Thursday to bear witness to this moment of history.

So it was a welcome sight to watch the morning sun rise, bathing the Court Building and the dazzling white marble of the Capitol dome in a pink hue. Court clerks and court police officers opened the doors and ushered the assembled masses into the hallowed and historic halls of the Courthouse in what must be one of the ultimate civics lessons available for all citizens to participate in.

Walking almost silently and in single file, we passed through the brass gates into the Chamber itself, oaring three stories high. Precisely at 10:00 a.m. a buzzer sounded and the Justices appeared from behind their red velvet draperies behind their chairs and took their seats.  

The Justices peppered both sides with incredibly rapid-fire questions, often cutting off answers before the attorneys had even finished. This seemed to frustrate the eloquent efforts of both attorneys for marriage equality and those supporting Proposition 8.

It quickly became clear that, beyond the merits of the case, the Justices were interested in the issue of legal standing. A person, group, or institution must prove that it is directly harmed by a law in order to challenge the law in court. If they're able to prove that they are negatively impacted, they "have standing," and the case can proceed. 

The questions that the Justices asked reveal that they are questioning exactly who meets these requirements: 
  • Justice Scalia asked "Does the Attorney General have standing in this case?"
  • Justice Kagan asked "Could the State of California assign any citizen to appeal this Proposition?"
  • Justice Sotomajor asked "How is an injury created to these proponents?"
Perhaps the greatest indication of what the Court is thinking is the blunt questions Justice Kennedy asked: “why do you think we should take and decide this case?”

After just an hour and twenty minutes of fast-paced argument, Chief Justice Roberts abruptly called out that the case was submitted, everyone rose, and the Justices disappeared behind the red velvet drapes which made me think, oddly and suddenly, of the Wizard of Oz behind the emerald green curtains.

Later today we'll have an update as the Court hears arguments in the ACLU's case against the Defense of Marriage Act.

Key News & Documents

► Learn more | The Defense of Marriage Act

► Take Action | Thank the President for supporting marriage equality

► ACLU Issues | LGBT Rights

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