Whether states have the authority to define marriage has been debated for years and has again worked its way to the Supreme Court. 36 states currently permit gay marriage, a large number compared to two a mere decade ago. The Supreme Court will hear oral argument for both sides this Tuesday, April 28th. People have been lining up for days, according to NPR, hoping to obtain a seat to witness the occasion.
Before the court is a consolidation of cases from four states; Michigan, Ohio, Tennessee and Kentucky. All of four are defending their definition of marriage as a union of one man and one women. The cases were upheld at the Circuit Court level and the state’s legal opponents appealed to the Supreme Court.
The case comes down to two questions. First, “Does the 14th amendment require a state to license a marriage between two people of the same sex?” Second, “Does the 14th amendment require a state to recognize a marriage between two people of the same sex when their marriage was lawfully licensed and performed out-of-state?”
These questions essentially ask whether the Tenth or the Fourteenth Amendment to the Constitution is more relevant to the marriage issue.
On the state’s behalf, attorney’s argue that voters within the given state have the right to define marriage as a union between a man or a woman. Since there is no constitutional definition of marriage, the Tenth Amendment indicates the definition of marriage should be “reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.”
Attorneys for the plaintiffs argue that the Fourteenth Amendment, which states that “No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens…” should offer protection for marriage to everyone at the federal level. They see Marriage as a civil right restricted by individual states.
The court has scheduled an unusually long period of time for this case, two and a half hours to be exact. This time has allowed many arguments to be heard. A decision is expected in June and it could prove to be a watershed moment in constitutional interpretation for the next generation.