Live Blog: the freedom to marry at the United States Supreme Court

As the U.S. Supreme Court heard oral arguments in the cases that could bring the freedom to marry to same-sex couples nationwide on April 28, Freedom to Marry provided live updates. Check back here throughout the day, join the conversation on Twitter with #SCOTUSmarriage, and be sure to participate in the campaign to show the world that #LoveMustWin.

THE CASES: Today, April 28, the United States Supreme Court will hear arguments in Obergefell v. Hodges, the consolidated cases seeking the freedom to marry emanating from Kentucky, Michigan, Ohio and Tennessee. The litigation is being led by attorneys from each of the states, as well as the American Civil Liberties Union, Gay & Lesbian Advocates & Defenders, Lambda Legal, the National Center for Lesbian Rights,  The Court is reviewing a November 2014 decision from the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals, which became one of only three federal courts to uphold marriage discrimination since June 2013, the last time the Supreme Court heard arguments on marriage for same-sex couples.

THE QUESTIONS: Today the Court is considering two questions: 1) Does the U.S. Constitution require states to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples? and 2) Does the U.S. Constitution require that states respect marriage licenses that same-sex couples are issued lawfully in other states? Read about each of the cases here.

THE TIMELINE: The hearing begins at 10:00am ET, kicking off with ninety minutes of argument about Question 1.  Mary Bonauto, Civil Rights Project Director at Gay & Lesbian Advocates & Defenders, will argue for 30 minutes, followed by 15 minutes from the U.S. Solicitor General Don Verrilli, the federal government's top attorney, both in favor of marriage for same-sex couples nationwide. John Bursch, former solicitor general of Michigan, will argue against the freedom to marry. After, sixty minutes of argument will be presented about Question 2. Douglas Hallward-Driemeier, former assistant to the U.S. Solicitor General, will argue for 30 minutes on why states must respect marriage licenses issued in other states, and Joseph Whalen, associate solicitor general from Tennessee, will present opposing arguments. The argument should conclude by 1:00pm, after which time the legal team members and plaintiffs will hold a press conference on the steps of the U.S. Supreme Court. We'll have the audio from the argument by 2:00pm. A decision will then be mulled by the Justices and likely released in June. 

WHAT'S AT STAKE: The decision - expected June 2015 - will impact the state of the freedom to marry nationwide, with a positive ruling expected to bring marriage to same-sex couples nationwide, once and for all. 

HOW YOU CAN HELP: Take a minute today to show the world where you stand on the freedom to marry - and that #LoveMustWin, once and for all. Join us by posting a photo, video, piece of art, or anything creative to your favorite social media platform with the hashtag #LoveMustWin, and check out this live-updating page here. We're pulling together and retweeting our favorites!

3:45pm • Thanks For Following Along!

It's been a historic day, as the U.S. Supreme Court heard the case that we hope brings an end to marriage discrimination for same-sex couples, once and for all - and we're so glad you've followed along with us.

As we await a ruling in late June, we have a lot to be proud of. We helped show that America is ready for the freedom to marry. Through in-person vigils, through the #LoveMustWin campaign, and through all of the stories that so many same-sex couples and allies have shared this year, there's no doubt that all of America is ready for a nationwide ruling in favor of marriage for all. Over these next two months, let's keep it up, as so much of our rapid progress and momentum in the past decade has come from personal conversations and the emotional, real storytelling of why marriage matters.

2:30pm • Let's Keep Up the #LoveMustWin Momentum!

Thousands of Americans have added their voices to the #LoveMustWin campaign - from Hillary Clinton to Elizabeth Warren to Ben & Jerry's to Gloria Estefan. Don't miss your chance to declare that America is ready for the freedom to marry nationwide!

1:55pm • READ: Full transcript from the Supreme Court oral argument's Question 2

Check out the full transcript, provided by the U.S. Supreme Court, of the arguments on Question 2. Read the full transcript here.

Douglas Hallward-Driemeier: "It's our clients who take marriage seriously.  They took vows to each other and bought into an institution that, indeed, as this Court has said, predates the Bill of Rights, that is the most important and fundamental in their lives, and the State should offer something more than mere pretext as ground to destroy it."

1:15pm • READ: Full transcript from the Supreme Court oral argument's Question 1

Don't miss the full transcript, provided by the U.S. Supreme Court, of the arguments on Question 1 from today at the U.S. Supreme Court. Read them here, and check out some key excerpts:

U.S. Solicitor General Don Verilli: "And what I would suggest is that in a world in which gay and lesbian couples live openly as our neighbors, they raise their children side by side with the rest of us, they contribute fully as members of the community, that it is simply untenable ­­ untenable to suggest that they can be denied the right of equal participation in an institution of marriage, or that they can be required to wait until the majority decides that it is ready to treat gay and lesbian people as equals. Gay and lesbian people are equal.  They deserve equal protection of the laws, and they deserve it now. Thank you."

Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer: "Marriage, as the States administer it, is open to vast numbers of people ... But there is one group of people whom they won't open marriage to. So they have no possibility to participate in that fundamental liberty. That is people of the same sex who wish to marry. And so we ask, why?"

Mary Bonauto: "It was over 20 years ago that the Hawaii Supreme Court seemed to indicate that it would rule in favor of marriage, and the American people have been debating and discussing this. It has been exhaustively aired, and the bottom line is that gay and lesbian families live in communities as neighbors throughout this whole country." 

1:00pm • LISTEN: Live audio from Question 2 at the U.S. Supreme Court

12:50pm • Evan Wolfson, Legal Teams Emerge from Supreme Court

12:40pm • Oral Argument Concludes, Freedom to Marry Responds

The Supreme Court oral argument concluded at 12:30pm today. Freedom to Marry founder and president Evan Wolfson responded:

"Today’s Supreme Court oral argument capped a compelling collective presentation to the court and the country on the freedom to marry and equality for gay and lesbian Americans. The case for the freedom to marry shone through at every turn in the argument, undimmed and undeniable, and it should be clear to a majority of justices, as it has been to a cascade of lower courts and a national majority for marriage, that there is simply no good reason, no just principle, no argument, no evidence to justify perpetuating marriage discrimination any longer. Gay and lesbian couples, their children and families, and millions of Americans now look to the Court to assure to gay people the Constitution's guarantees of the freedom to marry and equality under the law. America is ready for the freedom to marry, and the case could not be stronger that it is time to bring our country to the right side of history, leaving no state and no family behind."

12:20pm • LISTEN: Live audio from Question 1 at the U.S. Supreme Court

12:00pm • Solicitor General for the United States of America: We Can't Wait for the Freedom to Marry Nationwide

U.S. Solicitor General Donald B. Verrilli Jr. argued for 15 minutes on behalf of the federal government. In his argument, he made the case that we've waited long enough for the freedom to marry nationwide.

The New York Times reports: He said it was “simply untenable” to deny same-sex couples the right to marry or to ask them to wait for some future when it is legal. “They deserve the equal protection of the law and they deserve it now,” Mr. Verrilli said.

11:45am • SCOTUSBlog Reporting from Inside Courtroom

11:35am • Responding to Justice Kennedy's Questions

Reports from inside the Supreme Court state that Anthony Kennedy has questioned the historical role of marriage - that only men and women have been able to marry. The New York Times reported, "At just after 10:07, he said the definition of marriage “has been with us for millennia. It’s very difficult for the court to say, ‘Oh, we know better.’ ” The comment suggested that for Justice Kennedy the long history of marriage could be a key factor in how he decides."

It's important to keep in mind, however, that same-sex couples marrying does nothing to change the institution of marriage. Gay and lesbian people are simply asking for the same access to marriage as all other couples. Like U.S. District Court Judge Shelby from Utah said in December 2013, "Here, it is not the Constitution that has changed, but the knowledge of what it means to be gay or lesbian."

11:30am • Argument on Question 1 Wrapping Up, 11:30am

The New York Times reports from inside the courtroom that the arguments on Question 1 - whether same-sex couples have the freedom to marry - are wrapping up. The Times reports:

Justice Stephen G. Breyer, a member of the liberal bloc, forcefully questioned why states should be able to exclude gay people from marriage. “Marriage is open to vast numbers of people,” he said, adding that same-sex couples “have no possibility to participate in that fundamental liberty. And so we ask, ‘Why?’"

11:01am • Some of Our Favorite Signs So Far from #Unite4Marriage

10:35am • Mary Bonauto of GLAD Presents Arguments for Marriage at SCOTUS

It's likely that Mary Bonauto, Civil Rights Project Director at Gay & Lesbian Advocates & Defenders, is wrapping up her portion of the oral argument in favor of the freedom to marry for same-sex couples. Here's a great quote from Mary about all of the people who have built toward today.

10:29am • Kinsey Morrison Talks About Being Raised by Two Moms in Kentucky

"My moms have been in a loving committed relationship for 25 years and have been engaged for 2 decades," Kinsey Morrison said today at the Unite for Marriage rally. Kinsey and her two sisters were raised by their moms in Louisville, Kentucky, and their family have been strong advocates for the freedom to marry nationwide. "My moms taught me about what marriage should be," she said. Read her profile at Freedom to Marry here.

10:12am • Tony Sullivan of One of the Earliest Marriage Cases, Speaks Outside of SCOTUS

Tony Sullivan, plaintiff in the 1970s case Adams v. Howerton, is speaking outside of the U.S. Supreme Court today for the Unite for Marriage rally, which Freedom to Marry is proud to be a part of alongside many of our partner organizations. Read more about Tony Sullivan in The Washington Post


This man was the first to sue the federal government for marriage 1975 #SCOTUS #lovemustwin

A photo posted by Jamie McGonnigal (@jmcgonnigal) on Apr 28, 2015 at 6:57am PDT

9:30am • Political Leaders Say that #LoveMustWin

9:00am • Check Out These Great Stories on Plaintiffs at SCOTUS Today

8:45am • Freedom to Marry President Evan Wolfson & National Campaign Director Marc Solomon Head into Supreme Court

A great new Politico article takes a look at the leadership that Evan Wolfson and Marc Solomon, Freedom to Marry's President and National Campaign Director, have shown in the marriage movement.

"If everything goes according to plan, Evan Wolfson and Marc Solomon will be unemployed some time later this year," the piece begins, explaining that Evan and Marc will be in the Supreme Court today. It continues:

"The intertwined stories of Evan Wolfson and Marc Solomon demonstrate that, alone, structural forces like demographic and economic change do not make a movement, though they can define its limits; that civil rights movements are almost always born at the tense intersection of national and local considerations; and that to be successful, a movement must embrace politics in its best and worst quintessence—as both a force of moral enlightenment and a cynical, bare-knuckle contest for power and privilege.

What Evan Wolfson and Marc Solomon learned along the way may well provide the roadmap for every major rights campaign over the next 50 years.

8:05am • Outside of the Supreme Court, Supporters Know America is Ready for the Freedom to Marry

7:57am • In Two Hours, Mary Bonauto Will Argue Before the U.S. Supreme Court

Today, Gay & Lesbian Advocates & Defenders' Civil Rights Project Director Mary Bonauto - and later in the day, Douglas Hallward-Driemier - will argue for the freedom to marry before the United States Supreme Court, making the case for why marriage is so important to loving, committed couples across the nation. Earlier this month, Evan Wolfson wrote an Op-Ed in The Advocate explaining why Mary Bonauto was the right choice for this fight. Read the Op-Ed here!

7:50am • Meet the Women Who Won The First Same-Sex Marriage Court Case 19 Years Ago

Last night Ninia Baehr and Genora Dancel joined us for a wonderful night bringing together plaintiffs from marriage cases across the country and throughout history. They also spoke with BuzzFeed about their experience as trailblazing plaintiffs in Baehr v. Lewin, the case in the 1990s where a court sided with plaintiffs seeking the freedom to marry for the very first time. Read the great piece here.

7:25am • Raise Your Voice with #LoveMustWin

Here's how you can add your voice to the #LoveMustWin campaign: 1) Create your post — take a picture, make some art, sing a song, or do something completely original. 2) Add the hashtag #LoveMustWin. 3) Post it to your favorite social channel — Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, or Vine. Join us, and see all of the posts: #LoveMustWin

7:00am • The Timeline to Expect Today

It's going to be a whirlwind day for the freedom to marry, and we want to keep you posted on all of it. Here's a look:

  • 9:30am Plaintiffs and attorneys from the legal cases before the Supreme Court will enter the Courtroom
  • 10:00am-12:30pm The U.S. Supreme Court will hear oral arguments on the freedom to marry, 90 minutes on Question 1 and 60 minutes on Question 2 (see above for more details)
  • 10:00am-1:00pm Supporters of the freedom to marry will rally with #Unite4Marriage outside of the Supreme Court. The rally will feature a wide range of speakers, and we'll be live-tweeting highlights throughout the day.
  • 1:15pm After the argument, the attorneys and plaintiffs will hold a press conference on what happened inside, and what to expect
  • 2:00pm The audio and initial transcript of the hearing is expected to be released from the Supreme Court before 2pm today. We'll have it up and available as soon as they do.
  • All Day No matter where you are, raise your voice and call for the freedom to marry nationwide using social media by including the hashtag #LoveMustWin on a creative social post! And follow all of the submissions on Twitter here.

6:55am • The Press is Gathered for a Historic Day

6:45am • TV AD: Don't Miss Freedom to Marry's National Television Spot

Check out the ad that Freedom to Marry released nationwide last week showing that America is ready for the freedom to marry! The ad shows that 63% of Americans view marriage as a right that should be available to everyone, and that support only grows in states where the same-sex couples can legally get married. Read more about it here!

6:30am • PHOTO: Supreme Court Plaintiffs Prepare for their Day in Court

Yesterday evening, on Monday, April 27, the plaintiffs from all of the cases currently being considered by the Supreme Court joined together on the steps of the United States Supreme Court for a photo before the big day!