(WASHINGTON) — As the politics of gay marriage change by the day, the Supreme Court is poised to hear a landmark case that could drastically change how states and the federal government approach one of the touchiest social issues of the last decade.
The nation’s highest court on Tuesday will hear long-awaited arguments in the case of California’s Proposition 8, the nation’s best-known and most hotly contested ban on gay marriage.
Along with another case scheduled for Wednesday, in which the court will consider a challenge to the federal Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) ban on gay marriage, the Prop 8 case likely will lead to at least one landmark decision to be cited by advocates and opponents of same-sex marriage for decades to come.
The Supreme Court is slated to issue rulings by the end of June.
The arguments on Prop 8, scheduled for 10 a.m., come after a week and a half of snowballing support for gay marriage by public figures.
Earlier this month, Ohio Republican Sen. Rob Portman became only the second sitting GOP senator ever to endorse gay marriage, citing his gay son as a reason for his changed opinion.
Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton endorsed gay marriage last week. And this week, Democratic Sens. Claire McCaskill, Mo., and Mark Warner, Va., publicly acknowledged their support for allowing gay couples to marry.
On Tuesday, the Supreme Court will hear arguments from the bipartisan duo of Ted Olson and David Boies, who argued before the court on opposite sides of the 2000 case over Florida’s vote recount in the presidential election between George W. Bush and Al Gore. Boies served as the top lawyer for Gore’s campaign; Olson, for Bush’s.
The unlikely pair was brought together by gay-rights advocates seeking to overturn California’s ban, which took the gay activist community by surprise when it passed in 2008. Californians voted 52 percent to 48 percent in favor of banning gay marriage under their state constitution in 2008 on the same day they voted Barack Obama into the White House by a margin of 61 percent to 37 percent for Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz.
Obama later endorsed gay marriage in a 2012 interview with ABC News’ Robin Roberts.
Charles J. Cooper, representing a group called Protectmarriage.com, will argue in favor of the ban.
Supporters of Prop 8 have contended that states should be able to ban gay marriage because society has an interest in heterosexual marriage as a means of procreation.
“The definition of marriage has always been understood to be the virtually exclusive province of the states, which, subject only to clear constitutional constraints, have absolute right to prescribe the conditions upon which the marriage relation between their citizens shall be created,” Cooper has said.
Boies and Olson, meanwhile, contend that Prop 8 singles out gay couples unfairly.
“The unmistakable purpose and effect of Proposition 8,” they have written, “is to stigmatize gay men and lesbians — and them alone — and enshrine in California’s Constitution that they are unequal to everyone else, that their committed relationships are ineligible for the designation ‘marriage’ and that they are unworthy of that most important relation in life.”
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