On April 28, 2015, the Supreme Court of the United States held oral arguments in Obergefell v. Hodges – the combined group of 6 cases addressing the constitutionality of various states’ bans against same sex. Most Court watchers expect a ruling to come out by the end of June when the Court’s term ends. The next date when the Court will release opinions is May 26th.
Many speculate that Justice Ginsberg was hinting at the result when she officiated at a same sex wedding on Sunday May 17, 2015. At the end of the vows between the two grooms, Justice Ginsberg said she pronounced the two men marriage by the powers vested in her by the Constitution of the United States, giving special emphasis to the word “Constitution“.
Justice Ginsberg is known to be among the liberal wing of the Court, with Justices Sotomayor, Breyer, and Kagan. On the other side, Justices Scalia, Thomas, and Alito typically vote along conservative lines. Justice Roberts usually votes with the conservative block, leaving Justice Kennedy as the moderate middle swing vote. The Obergefell case will probably fall along those voting lines as well.
Justice Kennedy’s legacy has been very strongly in favor of the rights of the LGBT community. As early as 1996, Justice Kennedy wrote the Court’s opinion in Romer v. Evans, invalidating a Colorado law against homosexual rights. He also wrote the Court’s landmark opinion in Lawrence v. Texas, extending Due Process protection to homosexual people and banning laws that made such conduct criminal. On the other hand, Justice Kennedy tends to be a states’ rights advocate. So, in Obergefell, Justice Kennedy could be conflicted between the right of each state to make its own laws about marriages versus the right of same sex couples to marry and enjoy the benefits of a legally sanctioned relationship as heterosexual couples.
By June, the country should have a better idea of what the law of the land will be.