Marinating on Marriage: We Have the SCOTUS Video, Audio and Transcript

AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais

One didn’t have to stand in a line outside of the Supreme Court of the United States for five days in order to be a part of civil rights history.

Theodore B. Olson of Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher LLP presented argument on behalf of the Plaintiffs challenging Proposition 8.  Solicitor General Donald B. Verrilli, Jr. presented argument on behalf of the United States as amicus curiae in support of the Plaintiffs.  Charles J. Cooper of Cooper & Kirk, PLLC presented argument on behalf of the Proponents of Proposition 8.

“Fourteen times the Supreme Court has stated that the freedom to marry is one of the most fundamental rights—if not the most fundamental right—of all Americans,” said Boies. “The denial of the right to marry causes grave harm to gay and lesbian Americans and the children they are raising.  It serves no legitimate state interest.  As full and equal citizens under our Constitution, gay and lesbian Americans cannot be denied the basic, fundamental freedom to marry.”

“Today is a monumental day, not just for Sandy and me, but for the millions of other Americans across the country who have waited for years for the Supreme Court to consider whether they, too, should enjoy the right to marry,” said Plaintiff Kris Perry. “Witnessing today’s proceedings gives me hope that our four sons, and kids across America, will soon live in a country where love and equality prevail.”

“Today’s oral argument before the Supreme Court marks the start of the final chapter of our four-year journey toward equality,” said Plaintiff Paul Katami.  “The argument advanced by our incredible legal team to the nine Justices is clear and unequivocal: equal justice under law means equal justice for all.  We are confident that one day, very soon, this core American value will be realized and Proposition 8 and laws like it throughout the nation will be eliminated.” 

Below is the SCOTUS video response and transcript from Tuesday’s high-profile Hollingsworth v. Perry case.

Read the transcript from the oral arguments here. Excerpts are posted below.

On whether the case should be before them:

—CHIEF JUSTICE ROBERTS: But a state can't authorize anyone to proceed in federal court, because that would leave the definition under Article III of the federal Constitution as to who can bring — who has standing to bring claims up to each state. And I don't think we've ever allowed anything like that.

—JUSTICE KENNEDY: The problem — the problem with the case is that you're really asking, particularly because of the sociological evidence you cite, for us to go into uncharted waters, and you can play with that metaphor, there's a wonderful destination, it is a cliff. Whatever that was. ... But you're — you're doing so in a — in a case where the opinion is very narrow. Basically that once the state goes halfway, it has to go all the way or 70 percent of the way, and you're doing so in a case where there's a substantial question on — on standing. I just wonder if — if the case was properly granted.

On the question of children of same-sex parents:

—JUSTICE KENNEDY: I think there's — there's substantial — that there's substance to the point that sociological information is new. We have five years of information to weigh against 2,000 years of history or more. On the other hand, there is an immediate legal injury or legal — what could be a legal injury, and that's the voice of these children. There are some 40,000 children in California, according to the red brief, that live with same-sex parents, and they want their parents to have full recognition and full status. The voice of those children is important in this case, don't you think?

—MR. COOPER (representing the people who helped get Proposition 8 on the ballot, in response to Justice Kennedy): I certainly would not dispute the importance of that consideration. That consideration especially in the political process, where this issue is being debated and will continue to be debated, certainly, in California. It's being debated elsewhere. But on that — on that specific question, Your Honor, there simply is no data.

On the question of redefining marriage:

—JUSTICE SCALIA: Mr. Cooper, let me — let me give you one — one concrete thing. I don't know why you don't mention some concrete things. If you redefine marriage to include same-sex couples, you must — you must permit adoption by same-sex couples, and there's — there's considerable disagreement among -- among sociologists as to what the consequences of raising a child in a -- in a single-sex family, whether that is harmful to the child or not. Some States do not — do not permit adoption by same-sex couples for that reason.

On the rights of same-sex couples:

—MR. OLSON (representing two same-sex couples): This is a measure that walls off the institution of marriage, which is not society's right. It's an individual right that this Court again and again and again has said the right to get married, the right to have the relationship of marriage is a personal right. It's a part of the right of privacy, association, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

Listen to the audio from the oral arguments below.

Rob Reiner, actor, activist and founding board member of AFER, the sole sponsor of Hollingsworth v. Perry, said, “Today is a historic day for all those who believe in freedom and equality. After more than four years of working our case through victories at the federal District and Circuit courts, we finally had an opportunity today to present our arguments in support of marriage equality for gay and lesbian Americans before the highest court in the land.”  

Reiner added, “This case has always been about the love shared by two individuals and about the central promise from our nation’s founding that all men are created equal and are endowed with inalienable rights, including the pursuit of happiness.”

Click to watch inside the courtroom.

Reiner said he believed the SCOTUS would rule favorably in the vein of equality.

“I’m proud of the powerful argument presented today by our legal team, and the courage and perseverance displayed by our plaintiffs over these last four years.  I, along with millions of other Americans, look forward to the decision in June and believe the Supreme Court will come down on the side of fairness, dignity and equality,” he said.

Lambda Legal's Jon Davidson said, "Just 10 years ago to the day, we were here arguing in Lawrence v. Texas against state sodomy statutes and for the right to forge personal relationships without fear of being branded a criminal. Today, same-sex couples came before the Supreme Court to argue that their relationships must be treated equally under the law. We have come so far in this country - but until LGBT people have equality and dignity in every state, we still have far to go."

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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