The lead attorney representing same-sex couples in four marriage cases that went before the U.S. Supreme Court on Tuesday is optimistic the justices will rule in their favor.
“Today was a great day for equality at the U.S. Supreme Court,” Mary Bonauto told reporters after the justices heard oral arguments in the cases.
Jim Obergefell, an Ohio widow who sued the Buckeye State after it refused to recognize his Maryland marriage to his now-deceased husband, appeared emotional as he spoke to reporters outside the U.S. Supreme Court. The plaintiffs from the Michigan, Kentucky and Tennessee cases were standing by his side along with Bonauto and their other attorneys.
“I’m fighting for our marriage,” said Obergefell.
U.S. Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.), New York Congressman Jerrold Nadler, California Lieutenant Gov. Gavin Newsom, Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring, Human Rights Campaign President Chad Griffin and Freedom to Marry President Evan Wolfson were among the lawmakers and LGBT advocates who attended the oral arguments.
“It went supremely well,” Wolfson told the Washington Blade as he left the U.S. Supreme Court. “The case for the freedom to marry is clear.”
Herring told the Blade the U.S. Supreme Court’s landmark Loving v. Virginia decision that struck down state interracial marriage bans in 1967 came up during Tuesday’s oral arguments. He reiterated his previous statements that indicate Virginia “has argued on the wrong side of” Brown v. Board of Education and other major civil rights cases.
“This time as the attorney general for Virginia I was in standing up for the rights of all people to be treated fairly and equally,” said Herring.
Advocates heckle marriage opponents
Victoria Cobb, president of the Family Foundation of Virginia, was among the opponents of marriage rights for same-sex couples who took part in a rally outside the U.S. Supreme Court as the justices heard oral arguments.
Cobb during her speech said that more than 1.3 million Virginia voters in 2006 voted in support of a state constitutional amendment that defined marriage as between a man and a woman. She noted that Herring declined to defend it in court.
“He stepped in and worked on the opposite side,” said Cobb. “His decision was in fact unprecedented.”
LGBT rights advocates loudly heckled Cobb, National Organization for Marriage President Brian Brown and other same-sex marriage opponents as they spoke in front of the U.S. Supreme Court.
U.S. Rep. Bill Flores (R-Texas) referenced the case of the owners of an Oregon bakery who were fined $135,000 by the state after they refused to make a wedding cake for a lesbian couple. Supporters of nuptials for gays and lesbians shouted “boo Texas” and “shame on Texas” as the Republican highlighted his state’s continued opposition to the issue.
“Marriage is a sacred institution critical to our nation’s success and health, which must be preserved and protected,” said Flores. “The definition of marriage should not be decided by judges from the high court.”
Jennifer Marshall of the Heritage Foundation made a similar point as she stood outside the U.S. Supreme Court holding a sign that read “every child deserves a mom and a dad.” She noted to the Blade that 50 million Americans have voted to “affirm in law the definition of marriage as one man and one woman.”
“The court should not disregard those votes,” said Marshall.
A group of protesters who gathered in front of Foundry United Methodist Church in Dupont Circle on Sunday were among the other same-sex marriage opponents who were outside the U.S. Supreme Court during the oral arguments. The Blade also witnessed two groups of people who were on their knees along both sides of First Street, N.E., praying in Spanish that the justices do not rule in support of marriage rights for gays and lesbians.
Advocates note Baltimore unrest during marriage rally
Same-sex marriage supporters far outweighed the number of opponents who gathered outside the U.S. Supreme Court.
Members of the Gay Men’s Chorus of Washington sang the National Anthem at the start of a rally that featured Dean Gary Hall of the Washington National Cathedral and other speakers. They also placed themselves in front of a group of counter-protesters who were standing along First Street, N.E.
Gregory T. Angelo, executive director of Log Cabin Republicans, held a Gadsden flag while standing outside the U.S. Supreme Court.
“Democracy cannot survive if it ignores the rights of its minorities,” said Rabbi Lucy Dinner of Temple Beth Or in Raleigh, N.C., who was among the plaintiffs in a lawsuit against North Carolina’s marriage amendment that state voters approved in 2012, as she spoke at the rally.
Kris Perry and Sandy Stier, one of the plaintiff couples in the lawsuit that challenged California’s Proposition 8, were among the thousands of other LGBT rights advocates who gathered outside the U.S. Supreme Court. The two women also received tickets to allow them to attend a portion of the oral arguments.
“Today’s a historic day,” Stier told the Blade as she and Perry stood outside the U.S. Supreme. “We feel like we’re finally getting to the end of this long struggle, and we’re going to have marriage equality soon.”
Elizabeth Patten of Ann Arbor, Michigan, stood outside the U.S. Supreme Court with a sign that contained the names of the two children she has with Jonnie Terry, her partner of more than 28 years. It also contained the slogan “marriage equality is a family value.”
Patten and Terry are among the roughly 300 same-sex couples who were legally marry in Michigan on March 22, 2014, after a federal judge struck down the state’s marriage amendment. The 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals later that day issued a stay that prevented any additional same-sex weddings from taking place.
“There’s always going to be the haters out here, but this is wonderful,” Patten told the Blade, referring to a group of same-sex marriage opponents who were standing nearby. “I’m glad to see there’s such a good showing here.”
Both Hall and Angela Peoples, co-director of GetEQUAL, were among the speakers at the marriage rally who noted the ongoing unrest in Baltimore that continues to take place against the outcry of the death of Freddie Gray.
“The quest for marriage equality is not unconnected to the quest for racial equality in this country,” said Hall.
Hannah Willard of Equality Florida noted to the Blade as she stood outside the U.S. Supreme Court that her state’s statewide anti-discrimination law does not include sexual orientation and gender identity.
“Same-sex couples can get married on Saturday and if they post about it on Facebook their bosses can find out and they can be fired on Monday,” she said. “So we need to make sure LGBT people are fully safe and protected in the entire state.”
Peoples also looked beyond the same-sex marriage movement as she spoke outside the U.S. Supreme Court.
“We know that the fight for all of our collective humanity and all of our collective equality is not won,” she said. “We will continue to fight.”