Supreme Court Hears Oral Argument in Historic Cases Seeking Freedom to Marry for Same-Sex Couples

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April 28, 2015
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Kevin Cathcart

The U.S. Supreme Court today heard oral arguments in the six cases out of the U.S. Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals collectively known as Obergefell v. Hodges, challenging discriminatory state bans on marriage for same-sex couples. Two of the cases, out of Ohio, are being litigated by Lambda Legal, the ACLU and the Ohio-based firm of Gerhardstein & Branch. Lambda Legal Executive Director Kevin Cathcart and Al Gerhardstein of Gerhardstein & Branch attended the oral arguments and issued the following statements:

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Kevin Cathcart:

“Today was an awe-inspiring and singular moment in the march towards justice for same-sex couples and their families as powerful arguments for fairness, equality and love echoed in the chamber of our nation’s highest court.

“Congratulations to Mary Bonauto and our colleagues at Gay & Lesbian Advocates & Defenders and to Doug Hallward-Driemeier of Ropes & Gray. Mary and Doug argued eloquently and persuasively and made it clear that these marriage bans serve no purpose save to stigmatize same-sex couples, their relationships and their children. Congratulations also to all the plaintiff families who stood up for all of us.

“If we win, it will be historic, and it will bring protections to same-sex couples and their children across the land.  But it would not be the end. The freedom to marry would open many doors, but it does not eliminate discrimination and violence against LGBT people and people living with HIV. And our well-funded opponents would not stop trying to roll back our advances, as we recently witnessed in Indiana and other states. No matter what the Court rules, we will keep working to secure and protect our freedoms.

 “It was especially gratifying for Lambda Legal to be working closely on these cases with our sister organizations – the ACLU, NCLR and GLAD – with whom we have been fighting for equality for many years, and with private counsel who have joined us - often pro bono - in this battle. For marriage equality, we have joined together to make what we hope are the closing arguments.”

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Alphonse Gerhardstein:

“Three babies have been born to our clients since we filed our cases.  They deserve to grow up in families that enjoy full equality.  It was incredibly moving to gather in the Supreme Court chamber with their parents and all 30 plaintiffs in these historic cases.   Mary and Doug were fantastic, making a compelling and to my mind irrefutable case on their behalf.  No state should be permitted to pass laws that purposefully make gay families unequal to others.  Hopefully in a few short weeks the Supreme Court will issue a ruling that ensures the dignity of these babies and of all LGBTQ families across America.”

The six cases on review before the Court today included: two Ohio cases, Obergefell v. Hodges, where the ACLU joined with Gerhardstein & Branch, and Henry v. Hodges, where Lambda Legal joined Gerhardstein & Branch; DeBoer v. Snyder, a Michigan case litigated by private counsel and Gay & Lesbian Advocates & Defenders (GLAD); Bourke v. Beshear and Love v. Beshear, two Kentucky cases litigated by private counsel and the ACLU; and Tanco v. Haslam, a Tennessee case litigated by the National Center for Lesbian Rights (NCLR) and private counsel.

Lambda Legal, the ACLU, NCLR and GLAD, along with other civil and LGBT rights organizations and often joined by pro bono private counsel, have been fighting for the freedom to marry for same-sex couples for decades. Lambda Legal first fought for marriage equality in Hawaii almost 20 years ago, won a unanimous decision for marriage from the Iowa Supreme Court in 2009, and has successful litigated many other marriage lawsuits, including in New Jersey, Illinois, Nevada, Arizona, Virginia, West Virginia, South Carolina and Indiana.

Read the press release.