After the first day of Supreme Court deliberations over same-sex marriage, it's unclear exactly where the justices come down on the issue. It is clear, however, where public opinion is headed: Areleased this week provides the latest evidence that voters are increasingly accepting of same-sex marriages.
The tide of public opinion could arguably work in the favor of gay rights activists as they await decisions from the Supreme Court on two different cases relating to same-sex marriage. At the same time, the quickly changing public sentiment on gay rights goes to the heart of the conservative argument in both cases -- that the issue of marriage should be left up to voters and the legislative branches of government.
The conservative case
Yesterday, the courtin Hollingsworth v. Perry, which challenges the constitutionality of Proposition 8, California's same-sex marriage ban.
Charles Cooper, the attorney for Prop. 8's supporters, did not open his argument with any mention of protecting traditional marriage or its role in society -- rather, he began by urging the justices to protect the democratic process.
"The accepted truth...is one that is changing and changing rapidly in this country as people throughout the country engage in an earnest debate over whether the age-old definition of marriage should be changed to include same-sex couples," he said. "The question before this court is whether the Constitution puts a stop to that ongoing democratic debate and answers this question for all 50 States."
Today, the court hears arguments in United States v. Windsor, the case against a section of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) that denies legally married same-sex couples federal benefits, such as Social Security benefits.
In its brief defending the law on behalf of House Republicans, the Bipartisan Leadership Advisory Group (BLAG) argues, "DOMA permitted states to perform their role as 'laboratories of democracy,' while at the same time ensuring that no one state's experiment would be imposed on other states or on the federal government. DOMA thus reflects an interest in ensuring that, at a time of unprecedented reconsideration of the traditional definition of marriage, each sovereign in our federal system may decide this important issue for itself."