The Conversation

Supreme Court May Issue Narrow Ruling On California's Same-Sex Marriage Ban

Today, the Supreme Court heard the first of two gay marriage cases to come before the court, this week.

Several of the justices indicated they might lean toward issuing a narrow ruling on gay marriage during a landmark hearing Tuesday on California's same-sex marriage ban, even as lawyers for the plaintiffs argued for legalizing the unions nationally. 

A narrow ruling would not necessarily ripple through the rest of the states, but in a broad ruling, the court could overturn every state constitutional provision and law banning same-sex marriages.

Several justices, including some liberals on the court raised doubts that the case is properly before them.

 Justice Anthony Kennedy, the potentially decisive vote on a closely divided court, suggested that the court could dismiss the case with no ruling at all.

Chief Justice John Roberts told Olson that it seemed supporters of gay marriage were trying to change the meaning of the word "marriage" by including same-sex couples.

Justice Anthony Kennedy suggested that throwing out California's ban could take the Supreme Court into "uncharted waters." But Olson responded that the court did just that when it threw out bans on interracial marriage.

John Roberts compared changing the definition of marriage to forcing a child to call someone who's not a friend, a friend.

“If you tell a child that somebody has to be their friend,” Roberts said, “I suppose you can force the child to say ‘this is my friend.’ but it changes the definition of what it means to be a friend. And that’s, it seems to me, what (supporters?) of Proposition 8 are saying here. All you’re interested in is the label, and you insist on changing the definition of the label.”

At Mediaite, Tommy Christopher called that " a particularly brain-dead comparison" because "the law ought to allow the child to call his friend a “friend,” and the government ought to recognize that friendship, just as surely as it ought not dissolve anyone else’s friendship."

But the point Roberts was making was about whether the law should define for the rest of us what the meaning of marriage is.

 Erick Erickson explained why this is important at RedState:

Within a year or two we will see Christian schools attacked for refusing to admit students whose parents are gay. We will see churches suffer the loss of their tax exempt status for refusing to hold gay weddings. We will see private businesses shut down because they refuse to treat as legitimate that which perverts God’s own established plan. In some places this is already happening. ...

There will be no theoretical "slippery slope", here. It will happen, and it will happen fairly quickly.


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