Supreme Court Showdown

With Prop. 8 and DOMA heading for SCOTUS, historic hope mingles with quieter caution

A MILESTONE FOR EQUALITY

LGBT-rights advocates have presented a unified front on the high court’s announcement, describing the justices’ decision as a landmark event in the fight for equality. Although few will admit it publicly, concerns that the Proposition 8 case may be ”too much, too soon” do exist.

”Today is a milestone day for equal justice under the law and for millions of loving couples who want to make a lifelong commitment through marriage,” said Human Rights Campaign President Chad Griffin in a statement released shortly after the Supreme Court’s Dec. 7 announcement.

According to Griffin, the high court has an opportunity in the Proposition 8 case to not only reaffirm the rights of same-sex couples in California to marry, but the rights of same-sex couples across the country. As the co-founder of the American Foundation for Equal Rights, Griffin spearheaded the suit against Proposition 8 in 2009 and personally recruited Olson, the former solicitor general for President George W. Bush, and Boies.

”Proposition 8 has been already been declared unconstitutional in Federal District Court and the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals,” Griffin said. ”Now the Supreme Court has an opportunity to do the same and send a resounding message of hope to LGBT young people from coast to coast that they have the same dignity and same opportunities for the future as everyone else.”

Timing is everything when it comes to the Supreme Court, and while some remain skeptical of what the scope of the Supreme Court’s ruling could be, Griffin and others have expressed confidence that the ruling will be momentous.

”I believe our cherished constitutional principles will win the day and that the court will uphold the fundamental right that all Americans can marry the one they love,” said Griffin.

At least four of the Supreme Court’s nine justices voted to take up Hollingsworth v. Perry. The court did not release the names of those justices, nor their reasoning for voting the way they did.

Few doubt that the court’s nine justices are unaware of the political climate surrounding marriage equality. Indeed, their decision to take up the DOMA and Proposition 8 cases comes just one month after historic wins for marriage equality at the ballot box in four states. It also comes after the reelection of the most LGBT-friendly president in American history and the election of the largest number of out LGB people to Congress.

”By winning more states and winning over more hearts and minds, we maximize our chances of victory in court, showing the justices that when they do the right thing, it will stand the test of time and be true to where the American people already are,” said Freedom to Marry President Evan Wolfson in a statement.

Victories must continue in the six months before the Supreme Court issues its decision, argued Wolfson on the Dec. 10 editorial pages of The New York Times.

”The Supreme Court itself has affirmed the right to marry as a fundamental constitutional freedom 14 times — in cases involving, for example, restrictions on interracial couples and the right of prisoners to marry,” Wolfson wrote. ”The Prop. 8 case offers the prospect of final vindication of that underlying freedom to marry.”

According to Wolfson, Freedom to Marry is already looking to 2013 legislative victories within reach in states like Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Minnesota, New Jersey and Rhode Island as well as ways to fuel the growth of public opinion that continues to shift in favor of marriage equality.

Indeed, during a Dec. 9 appearance on ABC’s This Week, conservative columnist George Will said the high court could look to the broader right to marry as a consensus in favor of marriage equality emerges.

”Quite literally the opposition to gay marriage is dying,” said Will, ”It’s old people.”

Justin Snow is Metro Weekly's political editor and White House correspondent. He can be reached at jsnow@metroweekly.com.

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