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Supreme Court Hearing on Same-Sex Marriage Case Suggests Split Opinions

All eyes remain on swing voter Justice Anthony Kennedy as well as Chief Justice Roberts.

On Tuesday morning, the Supreme Court of the United States held a hearing on a set of landmark cases regarding same-sex marriage bans in Kentucky, Michigan, Ohio, and Tennessee.

Image via Flickr user Sharon Mattheson-McCutcheon


The debate seeks to answer two related, yet distinct questions: whether all states are required by the Constitution to certify same-sex marriages, and whether same-sex marriages that take place in states that allow them should also be recognized in states that don’t. Currently, 37 states allow same-sex marriage, but in the 13 states that don’t, partners are not allowed the same rights as straight couples, such as the ability to adopt children and be recognized as the guardians of the child.

After two-and-a-half hours of oral arguments—more than twice the amount of time that most cases receive—the justices brought up strong points against lawyers representing both sides of the case, drawing a sharp ideological divide between the court. In the end, it is still not clear in which direction the Supreme Court is headed.

"We heard both of them in the arguments today showing support for both sides of the argument, showing skepticism for both sides of the argument," Steve Vladeck, a constitutional law professor at American University, told CNN. "I think the headline here is it's about what we expected. It's going to be close, it's going to be divisive and it's going to come down to Kennedy and Roberts."

Justice Anthony Kennedy has been known to regularly play the part of the swing vote in major decisions. His hold on the balance is considered the key vote by those who are challenging the state bans, as he has penned three decisions in favor of gay rights in the past. Some go as far as to say that what the Supreme Court thinks about same-sex marriage is really what Kennedy thinks about the issue.

While the justices will convene later in the week to vote on the matter, the court’s decision will remain unknown until it is revealed in late June. For transcripts of the arguments in support and against same-sex marriage bans, the Washington Post published an informative “Who Said What,” here.

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