The fight over same-sex marriage reaches a climax in March when the U.S. Supreme Court has scheduled argument on California's Proposition 8 and on the federal Defense of Marriage Act on consecutive days.
Media outlets say the rough jostling for seats in the courtroom has already begun. Two pews in the courtroom, to the left of the bench and at a right angle to it, can accommodate about 16 to 20 journalists, but those seats are reserved for news organizations that cover the court on a regular basis.
Some high-profile broadcast journalists may find themselves exiled to the open gallery just outside the courtroom, but anyone there can't see much of the bench and has to be able to recognize the voice of an individual justice asking a question. Since most broadcast reporters make very few visits to the court, confusion may reign supreme.
SCOTUSBLOG.com, one of the few outlets that truly understands the Supreme Court, predicts transcripts of the arguments will be released on the days the cases are heard.
The Supreme Court arguments are unusual in that the national executive and the state executive are not defending the laws.
California voters approved Proposition 8, the California Marriage Protection Act, in 2008 with slightly more than 52 percent for, nearly 48 percent against. Prop 8 says in part, "Only marriage between a man and a woman is valid or recognized in California."
A federal judge declared Prop 8 unconstitutional, and a three-judge appeals court panel in San Francisco agreed 2-1. Argument in the U.S. Supreme Court in Hollingworth vs. Perry is scheduled for March 26.
California Gov. Jerry Brown, when he was state attorney general, refused to defend Prop 8. ProtectMarriage -- its sponsor is a state non-profit, California Renewal -- is the official proponent of the proposition and has been allowed to defend it in the Supreme Court.
The federal Defense of Marriage Act says federal benefits and considerations for married couples apply only to heterosexual unions. The Obama administration is enforcing the 1996 act, but is one of the main challengers in court. Counsel representing the Republican leadership of the U.S. House is doing the defense honors.
Argument in the case, United States vs. Windsor, is scheduled for March 27.
Though arguments are still more than two months away, some heated words already have been filed in briefs.
In the Prop 8 case, proponents of the voter-enacted law score the appeals court ruling against them.
"At the heart of [opponents'] equal protection claim is the remarkable proposition, adopted by the court below, that the traditional definition of marriage, which has prevailed in virtually every organized society throughout human history, is so utterly irrational, so wholly bereft of any legitimate purpose, that it can only be explained as designed to 'dishonor' and 'marginalize' gays and lesbians," a brief filed by proponents said.
Prop 8 opponents point to the Supreme Court's ruling in 1996's Romer vs. Evans.
A number of Colorado municipalities had passed "ordinances banning discrimination based on sexual orientation in housing, employment, education, public accommodations, health and welfare services, and other transactions and activities."
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