American Foundation for Equal Rights

Marriage News Blog

Inside the Supreme Court: The Case for Marriage Equality and Oral Argument

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The Cases

The U.S. Supreme Court is considering two cases that deal with marriage equality for gay and lesbian Americans.

On Tuesday, March 26, the Court will hear oral argument in Hollingsworth v. Perry, AFER’s federal constitutional challenge to California’s Proposition 8. Two couples, Kris Perry & Sandy Stier and Paul Katami & Jeff Zarrillo, are represented by Ted Olson and David Boies, who argue that Prop. 8 violates the Due Process and Equal Protection Clauses of the Fourteenth Amendment to the Constitution. Learn more about the Perry case >

On Wednesday, March 27, the Court will hear oral argument in United States v. Windsor, a challenge to the so-called Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), the 1996 law that prevents the federal government from recognizing the legal marriages of gay and lesbian couples in states with marriage equality. The case involves Edie Windsor, an 83-year-old widow who was forced to pay $363,000 in estate taxes after her wife died, a tax she would not have to pay if she was married to a man. Represented by the ACLU, Ms. Windsor claims that DOMA violates her right to equal protection of the laws.

The Court

The building that houses the U.S. Supreme Court was erected between 1932 and 1935. Prior, the Court was housed in various buildings including the U.S. Capitol. The building was designed by architect Cass Gilbert (1859 –1934), who also created numerous skyscrapers, museums (Saint Louis Art Museum) and libraries (Saint Louis Public Library), state capitol buildings (the Minnesota, Arkansas and West Virginia State Capitols).

The nine Justices are seated by seniority. The Chief Justice occupies the center chair, the senior Associate Justice sits to his right, the second senior to his left, and so on, alternating right and left by seniority.

Following Along

While cameras and live updates are prohibited inside the courtroom, audio of the proceedings will be made available shortly after oral argument concludes on each day. The Supreme Court has said that audio will be released by 1 p.m. EDT on Tuesday and 2 p.m. EDT on Wednesday. Seating inside the Court is extremely limited and on a first come basis.

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Shortly before 10:00 a.m., the Justices will meet in the Robing Room where they will all shake hands and don their robes.

At 10:00 a.m., oral argument will begin.  As the Justices enter the courtroom, the Marshal of the Court will intone:

The Honorable, the Chief Justice and the Associate Justices of the Supreme Court of the United States.  Oyez!  Oyez!  Oyez!  All persons having business before the Honorable, the Supreme Court of the United States, are admonished to draw near and give their attention, for the Court is now sitting.  God save the United States and this Honorable Court!

The Chief Justice will call our case and invite Charles J. Cooper, attorney for the Proponents of Proposition 8, to the lectern.  He has 30 minutes to make his argument.

Once Mr. Cooper has concluded, the Chief Justice will invite AFER lead co-counsel Ted Olson to the lectern.  He has twenty minutes to make his argument.

After Mr. Olson has completed his argument, the Chief Justice will invite Solicitor General Donald B. Verrilli, Jr. to the lectern.  The Solicitor General has 10 minutes to make his argument for the United States as amicus curiae, or “friend of the Court,” in support of AFER’s Plaintiffs.

If he has reserved time for rebuttal, Mr. Cooper will then have a few minutes to address the Court.

Once oral argument is concluded, the case is submitted for consideration.  The Justices will vote at their private Conference on Friday, March 29.  A final decision is expected by the end of June.