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Marriage Equality at the Supreme Court FAQ

It’s time to end the legal bans that single out same-sex couples for disrespect,
and instead allow them to make the unique promise of marriage to one another
and provide greater protection and security for their families.

– Mary Bonauto

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What is at stake?

The case marks a significant legal and cultural moment for the country, capping nearly twenty-five years of legal challenges, grassroots activism, legislative advocacy, and steady change in public opinion in favor of the freedom to marry for same-sex couples.

Thirty-seven states and the District of Columbia currently allow loving, committed same-sex couples to marry. The Supreme Court has been asked in this case to consider the constitutionality of laws in four states that bar same-sex couples from marrying, or prevent a marriage they lawfully entered into in another state from being recognized at home.

The Court has requested to hear arguments about each of these questions – the issuing of marriage licenses and the recognition of marriages – together on April 28.

The petitioners argue that the equal protection and liberty guarantees of the 14th Amendment make such marriage bans unconstitutional on both questions. If the Court agrees, it would mean no state would be permitted to refuse to recognize marriages or to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples.

In short, this case could resolve the question of marriage equality across the country once and for all.

What are the cases being argued?

The Court is hearing consolidated cases from four states, under the official name Obergefell v. Hodges:

Kentucky: Bourke v. Beshear and Love v. Beshear

Michigan: DeBoer v. Snyder

Ohio: Obergefell v. Hodges and Henry v. Hodges

Tennessee: Tanco v. Haslam

Who are the petitioners?

The petitioners are same-sex couples – many of whom are raising children – and widowers, who are seeking to have their relationships and families protected and respected by being able to legally marry or have their existing marriages recognized in the state they call home.

Bourke v. Beshear/Love v. Beshear (Kentucky)

Gregory Bourke and Michael Deleon, Paul Campion and Randy Johnson, Kim Franklin and Tammy Boyd, Jimmy Meade and Luke Barlowe, Timothy Love and Lawrence Ysunza, and Dominique James and Rev. Maurice “Bojangles” Blanchard

Deboer v.Snyder (Michigan)

April DeBoer and Jayne Rowse

Obergefell v. Hodges (Ohio)

Jim Obergefell, David Michener and Robert Grunn

Henry v. Hodges (Ohio)

Brittani Henry and LB Rogers, Kelly Noe and Kelly McCracken, Nicole and Pam Yorksmith, and Joseph Vitale and Robert Talmas

Tanco v. Haslam (Tennessee)

Dr. Valeria Tanco and Dr. Sophy Jesty, Ijpe DeKoe and Thom Kostura, and Matthew Mansell and Johno Espejo

When is the argument?

April 28, 2015. The argument begins at 10 a.m. and is scheduled to last two and a half hours.

What are the two questions?

Question 1: Does the Fourteenth Amendment require a state to license a marriage between two people of the same sex?

Question 2: Does the Fourteenth Amendment require a state to recognize a marriage between two people of the same sex when their marriage was lawfully licensed and performed out-of-state?

Who is arguing?

Question 1:

Mary Bonauto, Civil Rights Project Director at Gay & Lesbian Advocates & Defenders (GLAD), will argue on behalf of same-sex couples seeking the freedom to marry; she has been allotted 30 minutes.

Donald Verilli Jr., U.S. Solicitor General, will also have 15 minutes to support the argument for a constitutional right to marry for same-sex couples.

John Bursch, Michigan Special Assistant Attorney General, will defend the state bans on marriage for same-sex couples; he has been allotted 45 minutes.

Mary Bonauto will also have a short amount of time at the end of the argument for rebuttal or clarification.

Question 2:

Douglas Hallward-Driemeier, who leads the Appellate and Supreme Court Practice at Ropes & Gray, will argue that a state must recognize marriages of same-sex couples entered into outside of the state; he has been allotted 30 minutes.

Joe Whalen, Associate Solicitor General in the Tennessee Attorney General’s Office, will defend state bans on recognition of marriages legally entered into by same-sex couples in other jurisdictions.

Douglas Hallward-Driemeier will also have a short amount of time at the end of the argument for rebuttal or clarification.

Will the Argument be Streamed or Televised?

The argument will not be streamed or televised. The Court will post audio and a transcript of the argument later that afternoon. Sign up for GLAD email alerts to get the link once it’s posted:

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When can we expect a decision?

The decision is expected at the very end of the Court’s session, likely the end of June.