Update — 12:38 p.m. March 5: Supreme Court arguments set for Tuesday, April 28.
On Thursday, the Supreme Court announced it will be hearing oral arguments in the four states' marriage cases at 10 a.m. April 28. The arguments are expected to last until about 12:30 p.m. The court also announced that audio of the arguments, as well as a transcript, will be made available to the public that day. The audio and transcript should be posted, the court's public information office announced, by 2 p.m. April 28.
By Friday, supporters of marriage equality will be weighing in at the Supreme Court to urge the justices to make nationwide marriage equality a reality.
Supporters include the Obama administration and the former Republican National Committee chair
Amicus curiae, or friend of the court, briefs are submitted in most cases before the justices, but hot-button issues like marriage, abortion, and affirmative action often present many filings — some of which, because of the lawyers involved and issues or arguments discussed, can end up as key points in the oral arguments or even ultimate decisions.
The same-sex couples challenging the bans in Kentucky, Michigan, Ohio, and Tennessee submitted their briefs on Feb. 27. In them they argue that the bans on marriage and/or marriage recognition are unconstitutional for violating equal protection and due process "fundamental right" guarantees. Amicus briefs supporting their position are due by Friday.
Attorney General Eric Holder wrote in USA Today on Monday that the Justice Department's planned brief will argue that "[n]othing justifies excluding same-sex couples from the institution of marriage."
Ken Mehlman, the former chairman of the Republican National Committee, is bringing together a group of more than 250 Republicans and libertarians who support a marriage equality ruling.
Those working to finalize the brief told BuzzFeed News on Tuesday that they expect to have a total of more than double the 131 signatures they had on a similar brief filed when the Supreme Court considered the constitutionality of California's Proposition 8 in 2013.
In addition to Reps. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen and Richard Hanna, two additional members of the House, Illinois Rep. Bob Dold and Florida's Rep. Carlos Curbelo, have signed on to the Mehlman brief.
BuzzFeed News has learned that Sen. Susan Collins is signing on to the brief. Although Collins was praised for her work on repeal of "don't ask, don't tell," she did not endorse marriage equality until her latest re-election bid. Now, she has agreed with Mehlman and others that marriage equality is a constitutional guarantee. Additionally, former Sen. John Danforth, who opposed the Federal Marriage Amendment to the Constitution back in 2006, has signed on to the brief.
BuzzFeed News previously reported on a brief authored by Roberta Kaplan — the lawyer who argued on behalf of Edie Windsor in her successful challenge to the Defense of Marriage Act.
Anyone in the country was allowed to sign on to the brief, which Kaplan authored for the Human Rights Campaign, and the group announced Tuesday that it would be submitting the final brief with more than 200,000 signatures.
Also on Tuesday, OutServe-SLDN and the American Military Partners Association announced that they would be submitting a brief arguing that the current "patchwork" of marriage laws "harms military families and undermines national security."
Additional briefs are expected in the coming days from many corner, including religion, business, and academia. The states' briefs in support of the bans are due March 27, with supportive amicus briefs due the next week.
More than 150 government officials from the states whose bans are being challenged on Thursday announced that they were filing a brief urging the court to strike those bans down.
Specifically, the officials take aim at the argument that the political process should be allowed to control the issue, which formed a significant basis of the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals decision upholding the ban.
"Amici believe that the Sixth Circuit erred by elevating one important American value—democratic self-government—over our Constitution’s bedrock guarantees of liberty and equality," they write in the brief.
Among the other amicus briefs being submitted is a brief from Virginia, which acknowledges the fact that the state, in the past, has defended laws later found to be unconstitutionally discriminatory.
"The rights at issue in this case are not new," Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring wrote. "What is new is this generation’s recognition that substantive- due-process and equal-protection principles cannot be reconciled with State-sanctioned discrimination against gay people."
As expected, businesses — 278 of which filed an amici brief opposing the Defense of Marriage Act in 2013 — are back, filing an amici brief that goes further now, seeking nationwide marriage equality.
Additionally, more than 100 new companies joined the brief this time around for a total of 379.
The companies argue that diversity is important to businesses, that "[m]arriage discrimination drives talented individuals away from jurisdictions in which [these companies] do business," and that "[t]he states' bans impose significant burdens on our employees and our businesses."
Law professors who specialize in "conflict of law" questions — the treatment of conflicting laws between states or other jurisdictions — have filed an amici brief putting forth the argument that states should not be allowed to refuse recognition of same-sex couples' marriages.
"A state has no legitimate interest in singling out married same-sex couples for hostile treatment in interstate disputes," the seven scholars write. "Even if this Court were to conclude that the Constitution permits states to discriminate against same-sex couples in their own marriage laws, the common law of conflicts and decisions of this Court together make clear that states may not discriminate against same-sex couples who have validly married in another state."
Additionally, if the court does find that the Constitution bans discrimination against same-sex couples by states in marriage laws, the scholars write that the court should nonetheless separately address the recognition question.
"If this Court holds that the Fourteenth Amendment prohibits states from discriminating against same-sex couples in their own marriage laws, the imperative for the Court to address this interstate recognition issue will remain," they write. "Even following a recognition of their equal right to marry, same-sex couples will be at risk of continued hostility if this Court does not make clear that states may not discriminate against couples who have married in another jurisdiction."
Briefs were filed in the marriage cases on Friday from the American Sociological Association and National Women's Law Center and other women's groups, along with a brief filed by more than 200 mayors from across the country.
Final versions of briefs previously reported on by BuzzFeed News from the Human Rights Campaign and more than 300 Republicans, libertarians, and other conservatives also were filed with the justices.
The NAACP and NAACP Legal Defense and Education Fund submitted an amici curaie brief on Friday that presses forcefully for a reading of the Supreme Court's decision ending bans on interracial marriage — Loving v. Virginia — that would leave bans on same-sex couples' marriages unconstitutional as well.
"Today, this Court is presented with the opportunity to affirm the right to marry in a case with important parallels to Loving," the brief states. "It should hold that state bans on same-sex marriage violate the Fourteenth Amendment."
The brief goes further, though, and "explains how Loving rejected and debunked the repugnant theories that were espoused by Virginia in defense of its anti-miscegenation law." It then "demonstrates how the parallel arguments, which are now presented in defense of bans on same-sex marriages, must also be rejected."
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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