Next week, the United States Supreme Court will hear oral arguments in two landmark cases that will ultimately decide the fate of civil rights for the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and questioning community.
On Tuesday and Wednesday, the high court will begin its initial assessment of California’s Proposition 8 and the Federal Government’s Defense of Marriage Act in Hollingsworth v. Perry and United States v. Windsor, respectively.
In Hollingsworth, the court will determine whether the 14th Amendment precludes states from defining marriage as between one man and one woman.
In Windsor, attorneys will argue whether DOMA violates a same-sex couple’s marriage under the 5th Amendment’s equal protection clause.
Public approval of gay marriage has done a complete 180 since 2003, when only 37 percent of individuals supported it. Now, 58 percent of Americans polled by the Washington Post and ABC News support same-sex marriage while 36 oppose it.
In Washington, D.C., the issues have split primarily on partisan lines, and throughout the past several months, elected leaders from the top down have been vocal over both sides of the issue. In May 2012, President Barack Obama — after years of “evolving” views — finally clearly articulated support for gay marriage.
The House of Representatives has a unified front of DOMA support, but Republican Sen. Rob Portman (R-OH) caught nearly everyone off-guard when he announced he supported same-sex marriage after learning his son was gay.
He defied party politics, but the passage votes for DOMA in 1996 illustrated how different public perception was then. For example, Reps. Jim Trafficant (D-OH), Chuck Schumer (D-NY) and Senator Joe Biden (D-DEL) all voted in favor of the legislation most, if not all, Democrats would vehemently oppose.
It passed easily in the House, 342-67 and eased its way through the Senate, passing 85-14.
There are many factors at play and certainly many outcomes, both inside the hallowed courtroom and along its marble façade.
Activists, such as the Human Rights Campaign, have coordinated events and nation-wide endeavors to express unified support over the issues.
And the Topeka, Kansas-based religious group notorious for its homophobic and attention-grabbing protests, Westboro Baptist Church, has already posted a protest schedule on its website for next week’s hearings.