Justices of the U.S. Supreme Court today considered the Defense of Marriage Act, a law that restricts marriage to couples made up of one man and one woman.
The court debated the obvious issues -- such as whether DOMA is discriminatory, what it means for the federal government to make this decision as opposed to the states -- as well as some more complex questions. At one point, one of the justices questioned President Obama's actions in regards to DOMA without mentioning the president by name.
Read on to see the best moments in today's DOMA trial.
|Chief Justice John Roberts Questions President's 'Courage of Conviction'|
"I would have thought your answer would be that the executive's obligation to execute the law includes the obligation to execute the law consistent with the Constitution. And if he has made a determination that executing the law by enforcing the terms is unconstitutional, I don't see why he doesn't have the courage of his convictions and execute not only the statute, but do it consistent with his view of the Constitution, rather than saying, 'Oh, we'll wait 'til the Supreme Court tells us we have no choice.'"
|Justice Anthony Kennedy Inquires About Government Authority to Regulate Marriage|
"The question is whether or not the federal government, under our federalism scheme, has the authority to regulate marriage."
|Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg Compares Limited Benefits for Same-Sex Couples to Grades of Milk|
"They're not a question of additional benefits. I mean, they touch every aspect of life -- your partner is sick, Social Security. I mean, it's pervasive. It's not as though, well, there's this little federal sphere and it's only a tax question. It's as Justice Kennedy said -- 1,100 statutes and it affects every area of life. And so he was really diminishing what the state has said is marriage. You're saying, no, state said two kinds of marriage -- the full marriage, and then this sort of skim milk marriage."
|Justice Elena Kagan Wonders if Congress' Judgment Was Infected by Dislike, Fear and Animus|
Addressing the attorney arguing in favor of DOMA: "For the most part and historically, the only uniformity that the federal government has pursued is that it's uniformly recognized the marriages that are recognized by the state. So, this was a real difference in the uniformity that the federal government was pursuing. And it suggests that maybe ... Congress had something different in mind than uniformity. So we have a whole series of cases which suggest the following, which suggest that when Congress targets a group that is not everybody's favorite group in the world, that we look at those cases with some -- even if they're not suspect -- with some rigor to say: Do we really think that Congress was doing this for uniformity reasons, or do we think that Congress' judgment was infected by dislike, by fear, by animus and so forth?"
|Lawyer Opposing DOMA Tells Chief Justice Roberts That 'Time Can Blind'|
Roberta Kaplan, the lawyer for the 83-year-old New York woman who sued over DOMA: "There is little doubt that the answer to the question of why Congress singled out gay people's marriages for disrespect through DOMA. The answer can't be uniformity, as we've discussed. It can't be cost savings, because you still have to explain then why the cost savings is being wrought at the expense of married couples who are gay. And it can't be any of the state interests that weren't discussed. But questions of family law in parenting and marriage are done by the states, not by the federal government.
The only conclusion that can be drawn is what was in the House report, which is moral disapproval of gay people, which the Congress thought was permissible in 1996 because it relied on the court's Bowers decision, which this court has said was wrong, not only at the time it was overruled in Lawrence, but was wrong when it was decided."
Chief Justice John Roberts: "So 84 senators? It's the same question I asked before: 84 senators based their vote on moral disapproval of gay people?"
Kaplan: "No, I think what is true, Mr. Chief Justice, is that times can blind, and that back in 1996 people did not have the understanding that they have today."
|Chief Justice John Roberts Cites Political Power Regarding the Enactment of Same-Sex Marriage Laws|
Chief Justice John Roberts: "I suppose the sea change has a lot to do with the political force and effectiveness of people representing, supporting your side of the case?"
Roberta Kaplan, the lawyer for the 83-year-old New York woman who sued over DOMA: "I disagree with that, Mr. Chief Justice. I think the sea change has to do, just as discussed was Bowers and Lawrence, was an understanding that there is no difference. There was [thought to be] fundamental difference that could justify this kind of categorical discrimination between gay couples and straight couples."
Roberts: "You don't doubt that the lobby supporting the enactment of same sex-marriage laws in different states is politically powerful, do you?
Kaplan: With respect to that category, that categorization of the term for purposes of heightened scrutiny, I would, your honor. I don't--"
Roberts: "As far as I can tell, political figures are falling over themselves to endorse your side of the case."
|DOMA Lawyer Defends Differences in Marriage Definition|
Paul Clement, the lawyer defending the Defense of Marriage Act, attempted to convince the justices that there are already instances where the state and federal governments treat marriage differently.
"If you get a divorce every December, you know, for tax consequences, the state may well recognize that divorce. The federal government has long said, 'Look, we are not going to allow you get a divorce every December just to get remarried in January so you'll have a filing tax status that works for you that is more favorable to you.' So the federal government has always treated this somewhat distinctly; it always has its own efforts; and I do think, for purposes of the federalism issue, it really matters that all DOMA does is take this term where it appears in federal law and define it for purposes of federal law. It would obviously be a radically different case if Congress had, in 1996, decided to try to stop states from defining marriage in a particular way or dictate how they would decide it in that way."