SAN DIEGO – For the second day, the U.S. Supreme Court heard arguments today on same-sex marriage, and much like yesterday’s debate on California’s Proposition 8, half of today’s session on a federal marriage law dealt with procedural issues, according to a constitutional expert at the Thomas Jefferson School of Law in San Diego.
Professor Marybeth Herald told City News Service the ”very detailed and difficult arguments” over the federal Defense of Marriage Act went into whether the case should have been heard in the first place, whether there was an actual conflict between the parties — since President Barack Obama’s administration is not defending the law — and whether Congress has power over the states to regulate marriage.
The last issue, brought up by Justice Anthony Kennedy, could prevent a five-justice majority opinion when the nation’s high court announces its ruling sometime in June, Herald said.
She said that would mean the end of DOMA. On the other hand, such a decision would not result in states being required to allow same-sex marriage, and it wouldn’t be strong enough to set a precedent, she said.
”Arguments are only a snapshot of how the (justices) are feeling,” so the public shouldn’t put too much stock into what they heard when projecting an eventual ruling, Herald said.
On Tuesday, the justices heard arguments over California’s voter- approved Proposition 8, which limits marriage to being between a man and a woman. The initiative was overturned by a trial court, and that decision was upheld by the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeal.
The justices focused on much of their attention on whether supporters of the proposition had the necessary standing to bring an appeal to their court.
A ruling, also expected in June, that is based on the standing issue would only apply to California, according to Barbara Cox, a professor at California Western School of Law.