As temperatures hit the low thirties and a blanket of snow swept across Washington, D.C., on Monday morning, dozens of young people camped out in front of the nation’s highest court in hopes of getting tickets to see the justices hear arguments on a pair of cases that could redefine marriage in America.
On Tuesday and Wednesday the Supreme Court will have hearings on California’s Proposition 8 and the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA).
At issue in the Proposition 8 case, Hollingsworth v. Perry, is whether or not the referendum to ban gay marriage, which was passed by the state’s residents, violates the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment.
In the DOMA case, U.S. v. Windsor, the plaintiffs are asking SCOTUS to rule Section 3 of DOMA unconstitutional because it supposedly violates the Fifth Amendment by denying federal marriage recognition to gay couples who legally married in their home states.
As of Monday afternoon a total of 43 people, who were mainly under the age 40, were lined up outside of the court in hopes of getting a seat in the middle of the action on one of the two hearing days. The first person in line at the Supreme Court – a man who declined to be named – said he had been there since 4:30 a.m. last Thursday.
At one point in the afternoon the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee (DSCC) sent staffers outside to hand out coffee and pastries to protesters and people waiting in line. Other people came independently with boxes of pizza for lunch and packets of hand warmers.
The majority of the young people waiting for tickets said they were proponents of gay marriage and hope SCOTUS will slash down both Prop 8 and DOMA.
“It’s unfair. It’s a civil rights issue,” said Ashley Miller, who traveled to D.C. from South Carolina for the case. “It’s a basic human rights issue, and there’s no justification for it.”
Jason Wonacott, a D.C. resident who was waiting in line, concurred. “I think, generally, it’s an issue of fairness and equality, which are definitely American principles.”
Many of the young people in line claimed that the Supreme Court should overturn the laws because they were violations of civil rights and human rights – buzzwords that tend to play well with progressives, but not so well with conservatives. But one progressive, a self-identified staffer for the Human Rights Campaign, argued that marriage is a conservative value, therefore SCOTUS should rule against the cases and center-right Americans should support such a decision.
“Marriage is a conservative institution, and I believe that everybody who wants to take part in marriage and raise their families in a married household should be able to do that,” Karanja Jacuca, a D.C. resident, told Red Alert Politics. “It’s a conservative position.”
A recent poll conducted by ABC News and The Washington Post, showed that 58 percent of Americans are in favor of same-sex marriage.
“Sometimes when a minority is being oppressed, the judicial system needs to step in and say, ‘No.’ Stand up for them, essentially,” Jeffrey DeSoto of New York told RAP. “I absolutely think the federal government should recognize same-sex marriages.”
The hearing on whether or not to repeal California’s Proposition 8 will take place Tuesday. The proposition, which was passed in 2008, was passed into law by a slim 52.24-47.76 percent margin and overturned a 2004 San Francisco law allowing gay marriage.
The hearing to repeal the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) will take place Wednesday. Former President Bill Clinton signed DOMA on Sept. 21, 1996, which explicitly states marriage is only legally recognized as between a man and a woman.
The hearings will take place during the next two days, but the Supreme Court is not obligated to hand out their decision until the end of June.