Ringside Seat: All Eyes on Kennedy

This week, the Supreme Court will hear oral arguments in two landmark cases on the question of same-sex marriage, one about California's Proposition 8 and the other about the federal Defense of Marriage Act, which denies hundreds of federal benefits to legally married same-sex couples. The cases could go any of a number of ways, with many predicting that the Court will strike down DOMA but find some way to avoid saying that laws banning same-sex marriage in a particular state are unconstitutional. (Options include upholding Prop 8 and ruling that those defending the initiative have no legal standing to do so.) As usual, all eyes will be on Anthony Kennedy, presumed as always to be the swing justice whose opinion will determine the outcome.

Regardless of how the Court decides, it's feeling more and more like this is a battle whose ultimate outcome is no longer in doubt. On our web site today, E.J. Graff marvels at how quickly things have changed; it was only ten years ago, after all, that the Court ruled anti-sodomy laws unconstitutional. Now a rising majority of Americans supports marriage equality, and the Court could very well second public opinion. 

Just how much has changed already? On Sunday morning, Karl Rove—who used gay marriage so wickedly as a wedge in 2004—was asked by George Stephanopoulos if he could imagine the 2016 Republican presidential nominee supporting same-sex marriage. "I could," Rove responded. Rove may be prone to an overactive imagination when it comes to Republican prospects for victory, but he does understand his party, and he knows which direction it's moving. Tomorrow we'll start to get an idea of where the Supreme Court is headed.

So They Say

"We’re all the products of our backgrounds and environments, and the issue of marriage for same-sex couples is a complicated nexus of love, identity, politics, ideology and religious beliefs. We should think twice before using terms like 'bigoted' to describe the position of those opposed to same-sex marriage or 'immoral' to describe the position of those in favor, and always strive to cultivate humility in ourselves as we listen to others’ perspectives and share our own.

"I hope that my dad’s announcement and our family’s story will have a positive impact on anyone who is closeted and afraid, and questioning whether there’s something wrong with them. I’ve been there. If you’re there now, please know that things really do get better, and they will for you too."

 — Will Portman, son of Senator Rob Portman, writing in the Yale Daily News

Daily Meme: Gay-Marriage Case Footnotes

  • Much of the media will be saturated with updates about the marriage equality cases, but here are some fun facts that you might not hear about in the upcoming days.
  • In 1988, 72 percent of Americans disapproved of gay marriage. Now, 58 percent support it.
  • If Republicans decide to join everyone else on the pro-gay marriage bandwagon,they stand to benefit when it comes to fundraising.
  • Most of the public thinks the Supreme Court is ideologically moderate, as do Republicans. Democrats beg to differ.
  • Will Scalia crankily show his not-so-subtle partisan leanings? He's been known to do so in the past, and with less politically charged matters.
  • Speaking of Scalia, dude has 33 grandchildrenThe Washington Post took a look at the justices' lives as measured in matrimony as they once again weigh in on the personal lives of others.
  • Speaking of families, the fact that John Roberts's cousin, who is a lesbian, will be watching the oral arguments is getting quite a bit of attention. However, don't count on it to affect his decision a la Portman.
  • Two people who are especially happy to see this day come? Andrew Sullivan and Evan Wolfson. 
  • It's important to remember that even if the Supreme Court rules in favor of marriage rights, it doesn't mean that gay couples are ensured the same benefits as heterosexual couples.

What We're Writing

  • E.J. Graff writes about covering Lawrence v. Texas a decade ago—and what it means to be coming back to the Court for this week's proceedings. 
  • Gershom Gorenberg's verdict on President Obama's Jerusalem speech? It was pretty darn revolutionary.

What We're Reading

  • Is The Bachelor's "born-again virgin," Sean Lowe, the quintessential conservative
  • Sarah Conley rises to the defense of Bloomberg's "nanny state." 
  • South Dakota's Democratic senator, Tom Johnson, is stepping aside in 2014, joining four other of his party's senators. Unless Johnson's son runs, it looks like a likely GOP pickup. 
  • The Supreme Court takes another affirmative-action case—but this one's not challenging affirmative action, but Michigan's ban on it, which passed in 2006. 
  • John Avlon reports that the flaming wreck of Michele Bachmann's presidential campaign has spawned a new legal problem: a congressional probe into "intentional campaign-finance violations." It's all giving her (many) disgruntled ex-staffers a great opportunity to unload on their old boss. 
  • The Annotated worst Senate websites of all time: everything you dreamed of and more.

Poll of the Day

In the sad old days of 2004, as John Kerry remembers all too well, 62 percent of Ohio voters backed a constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriage. It was the nation's most hotly contested marriage referendum, in that year's biggest presidential battleground, and it helped swing the election toward George W. Bush. But now, in yet another dramatic sign of how the country's come around to marriage equality, the Columbus Dispatch finds that 54 percent of Ohioans now support the marrying o' the gays—and just 40 percent oppose it.