WASHINGTON — One of the key architects of the marriage equality movement, Mary Bonauto, will argue in support of same-sex couples' marriage rights at the Supreme Court on April 28, the legal teams representing the marriage cases at the court told the clerk on Tuesday.
Douglas Hallward-Driemeier, of the Ropes & Gray law firm, will be arguing in support of marriage recognition claims before the justices — arguments that states must recognize the marriages of same-sex couples granted out of state.
In addition to Bonauto, who will argue for 30 minutes on the marriage question, she will be joined by a lawyer from the Solicitor General's Office, which weighed in at the court to support nationwide marriage equality earlier this month, for 15 minutes of argument. Hallward-Driemeier will have 30 minutes to present his arguments on marriage recognition. Reuters' Joan Biskupic first reported that the groups were near agreement on Monday night.
The agreement between legal teams supporting same-sex couples in Kentucky, Michigan, Ohio, and Tennessee comes after significant behind-the-scenes skirmishes that had the teams initially requesting that five lawyers — instead of three — represent their side during the two-and-a-half hours of arguments on April 28.
In response to the initial March 17 letter, the Supreme Court clerk's office effectively denied the request, asking for one advocate from the plaintiffs' teams per question.
The decision to have Bonauto at the podium was not expected initially. Carole Stanyer, the lead lawyer in the Michigan case, and Daniel Canon, the lead lawyer in the Kentucky case — along with Stanford Law professor Jeffrey Fisher, who joined the Kentucky plaintiffs' team — were considered the most likely advocates on the marriage question. Teams declined to comment on Tuesday regarding the reason for Tuesday's ultimate selection, but Bonauto — who had joined the Michigan plaintiffs' team during the course of the litigation — has a background that likely made her the groups' best compromise choice.
It was Bonauto, on March 4, 2003, who argued before the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court in support of same-sex couples' marriage rights.
As she told BuzzFeed News a decade later, in 2013, the 15 minutes before the court was as stress-inducing as it was historic. "I think the first question was, 'Why should we do something no one else has ever done?' — which is a fair question, and I said, 'Because marriage is a fundamental right, [this is] sexual orientation [discrimination], and this is the right thing to do,'" Bonauto said.
On Nov. 18, 2003, the Massachusetts court agreed with her, and the first same-sex couples to get legal marriage licenses in the United States did so just after midnight in Cambridge, Massachusetts, on May 17, 2004. Nearly eleven years later, Bonauto will be asking the nine justices of the U.S. Supreme Court to make that decision a national one.
"The road that we've all travelled to get here has been built by so many people who believe that marriage is a fundamental right," Bonauto said in a statement on Tuesday morning. "Same-sex couples should not be excluded from the joy, the security, and the full citizenship signified by that institution. I believe the Court will give us a fair hearing, and I look forward to the day when all LGBT Americans will be able to marry the person they love."
On the recognition question, it was understood that Hallward-Driemeier — who joined the Tennessee plaintiffs' team in recent months — was in the mix to present arguments before the justices, along with the lead lawyer for the Ohio plaintiffs, Al Gerhardstein.
Hallward-Driemeier does not have Bonauto's extensive history with LGBT rights or the marriage equality movement, but the partner at Ropes & Gray does have some experience supporting LGBT groups' efforts and extensive experience before the Supreme Court. Hallward-Driemeier has argued before the court in 14 cases — and will be appearing before the justices for a 15th time on Wednesday.
Among his LGBT-related efforts, Hallward-Driemeier was the lead lawyer in the amici curiae, or friends of the court, brief filed by the Anti-Defamation League and other religious or religiously affiliated organizations in 2013 in support of Edith Windsor in her challenge to the Defense of Marriage Act. Additionally, he was one of the lawyers on an amici brief filed in this term's Obamacare subsidy case, King v. Burwell, on behalf of Lambda Legal and other organizations arguing in support of the administration on behalf of people with HIV. He also has been involved as pro bono counsel in support of LGBT asylum applicants.
"It is an incredible honor to represent these devoted couples, who have already been lawfully married and established new families, in arguing to vindicate their right to have the states respect their marriages," Hallward-Driemeier said in a statement. "These couples deserve the same respect and stability that states grant other married couples and their families throughout every phase of life."
Previously, the four states defending bans on same-sex couples' marriages and marriage recognition announced that former Michigan Solicitor General John Bursch will be arguing in defense of state bans on same-sex couples' marriages. Joe Whalen, the associate solicitor general in the Tennessee Attorney General's Office, will argue in defense of the recognition bans.
After the April 28 arguments, the Supreme Court is expected to issue a decision in the cases by the end of June.
The Supreme Court formalized the argument times in an order filed on Friday afternoon.
Chris Geidner is the legal editor for BuzzFeed News and is based in Washington, DC. In 2014, Geidner won the National Lesbian & Gay Journalists Association award for journalist of the year.
Contact Chris Geidner at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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