HRC answers your questions about what to expect on April 28 and what's next.
What is the case? How many cases are there?
On April 28, the U.S. Supreme Court will hear oral arguments in Obergefell v Hodges, a case originating in Ohio. In January, the Supreme Court announced that it would hear Obergefell along with three other cases from Michigan, Kentucky, and Tennessee. The arguments have been consolidated and the case has formally been named Obergefell.
Since the Supreme Court ruled in U.S. v. Windsor in 2013, more than 80 cases have made their way through federal and state courts--and countless lawyers, litigation organizations and plaintiffs have worked tirelessly for decades to make the progress of Obergefell possible.
Who is the plaintiff in the case?
HRC member Jim Obergefell is the named plaintiff in the case.
In 2013, Obergefell’s partner of 20 years, John, was in hospice care and confined to a hospital bed at home in Cincinnati, Oh. When the Windsor decision came out in June of that year, Obergefell and Arthur made the swift conclusion that they wanted to get married.
The couple flew to Baltimore, Md., for a seven-and-a-half minute ceremony on a medical jet, before returning home to Cincinnati.
As same-sex marriages are not recognized in Ohio, civil rights attorney Al Gerhardstein reached out to Obergefell and Arthur after their story was featured in the Cincinnati Enquirer, and their fight for marriage equality began. The case was joined by the ACLU and Lambda Legal, who helped lead Obergefell all the way to the Supreme Court.
What happens during oral arguments?
Trailblazing LGBT Attorney Mary Bonauto, Civil Rights Project Director for Gay and Lesbian Advocates & Defenders (GLAD), and Douglas Hallward-Driemeier, a former assistant U.S. solicitor general, will represent Obergefell and all fellow plaintiffs from Michigan, Ohio, Kentucky and Tennessee before the Supreme Court.
On April 28, the U.S. Supreme Court will consider two questions regarding marriage equality. The court will first consider whether states have the obligation to perform same-sex marriages. Bonauto will argue this question. The court will then hear arguments as to whether states are obligated to recognize same-sex marriages performed in other states. Hallward-Driemeier will argue this question. Presumably, if the Court sides with marriage equality in the first question, the second question will be irrelevant.
No decision will come on April 28. A ruling is not expected until June or early July.
What are amicus briefs? What is The People’s Brief?
Amicus briefs, documents filed to the court by parties not directly linked to the case but who may have insight into key arguments or an interest in the outcome, were filed by both supporters and opponents of marriage equality earlier this year. One notable amicus brief was HRC’s People’s Brief, the largest amicus brief filing in United States history. With 207,551 signatories, the brief was 3,500 pages long for a total of 175,000 pages, requiring four days of round-the-clock printing.
Briefs in opposition to marriage equality were submitted by groups including the National Organization for Marriage as well as a group of GOP members of Congress.
When will there be a decision?
The Supreme Court may issue its decision at any time. However, most court analysts believe that the decision will come toward the end of the Court's current term--in late June or early July.
What are the possible outcomes of the decision?
If the court decides that there is a constitutional right to marry and that states have an obligation to perform same-sex marriage, then marriage equality will finally become law of the land in all 50 states.
However, the court could rule narrowly, finding that states do not have the obligation to perform same-sex marriage themselves but must recognize same-sex marriages conducted in other states.
Every reputable legal analyst believes it is unlikely that the Supreme Court will rule against same-sex couples in this case.
How can I show my support?
On April 28, join LGBT and allied groups, grassroots leaders, families and friends on the steps of the Supreme Court for a rally for marriage equality. Find out more here. And to show the world that you're standing on the right side of history, visit HRC's Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Snapchat accounts.
We're at a critical point for marriage equality – we've made historic progress, but countless loving, committed, same-sex couples still do not have the right to legally marry. We won't rest until we achieve full marriage equality because #LoveCantWait! Please sign HRC's #LoveCantWait petition — and show that you believe that marriage equality should be legal in ALL 50 states.
Stay tuned to www.hrc.org/SCOTUS over the next several weeks as we continue to bring you breaking news and analysis.