SCOTUS Hears Arguments on Marriage Equality and DOMA

In a recent poll, the NAACP found that 57% of African Americans surveyed support marriage equality with religious exemption. This week, CNN detailed the five things to watch for in the upcoming Supreme Court hearing on marriage equality. The first issue was the ways that banning same-sex marriage affects families; there is an increasing number of families in legally recognized same-sex marriages.  There are nine states and the District of Columbia who recognize same-sex couples, but 29 states have bans on marriage equality. The second thing to watch for is arguments regarding California’s Proposition 8 that banned same-sex marriage in the state and the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA). Today, justices will hear oral arguments on Proposition 8 and on Wednesday, they will hear arguments on DOMA.

Another piece to the marriage equality debate is whether or not justices can issue a ruling that will broaden the legal definition of marriage. Most supporters of Proposition 8 and DOMA believe that it should be up to voters to make that decision and not the court. California Attorney General Kamala Harris is arguing against Proposition 8 and has said that voter-approved marriage bans are “simply unconstitutional.” She continued in a recent statement saying that same-sex couples have a right to be protected under the law:

California’s interests in protecting all of its children — and their basic dignity and understanding of fairness and justice — are best served by allowing same-sex couples to enjoy the same benefits of marriage as opposite-sex couples.

There are some major players in this week’s argument, but two to watch for are Justice Anthony Kennedy and Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. Justice Anthony has authored two opinions that advanced gay rights during his tenure, including state laws that criminalized homosexuality. Conservative supporters of the bans have also focused their attention on Justice Ginsburg, who Karl Rove has said may oppose a decision in support of marriage equality.

Lastly, the landscape for marriage equality has shifted as more Americans support legal recognition of same-sex relationships. The NAACP has filed an amicus brief in support of overturning DOMA, and we maintain that civil marriage is a civil right and a matter of civil law. We support marriage equality consistent with equal protection under the law provided under the Fourteenth Amendment.