The Debate, The Scene & Tennessee Connection to Supreme Court Arguments Today

The Debate

WASHINGTON (AP) – The Supreme Court justice who could decide the issue of same-sex marriage has had tough questions for both sides today as the justices heard historic arguments over the rights of gay and lesbian couples to marry.

Justice Anthony Kennedy seemed to share the concern of the court’s conservative justices when he said marriage has been understood as one man and one woman for "millennia-plus time." And he said that it’s difficult for the court to say, "We know better."

But he also asked an attorney representing the states that ban same-sex marriage to explain how granting gay couples a right to marry would harm traditional marriages.

Attorney John Bursch responded that removing child-rearing as the central rationale for marriage would weaken the commitment of parents to stay married for the sake of the children.

Chief Justice John Roberts also directed questions to both sides that made it hard to predict where he will come down. Roberts said gay couples seeking to marry aren’t trying to join the institution of marriage — they’re trying to "change what the institution is."

But he also said, "If Sue loves Joe and Tom loves Joe, Sue can marry him and Tom can’t." And he asked, "Why isn’t that a case of sexual discrimination?"

A court decision is expected in late June.

The Scene

WASHINGTON (AP) – Same-sex marriage advocates and protesters alike filled the sidewalks outside the Supreme Court on Tuesday. It was a festival-like atmosphere, complete with warm sunshine and lots of selfies.

While the high court isn’t expected to rule until June, many people said they wanted to witness history in the making.

Shelly Bailes, a 74-year-old from Davis, California, attended with her partner of more than 40 years. She said "we just had to be here."

Opponents were fewer in number, but louder and with towering signs quoting the Bible and using a microphone to denounce what they said was the demise of the nation. Peter Sprigg of the Family Research Council said he doesn’t consider same-sex marriage a "foregone conclusion."

Attorney General Herbert H. Slatery III statement regarding today’s Supreme Court hearing in Tanco v. Haslam

“Associate Solicitor General Counsel Joe Whalen did an excellent job arguing the case. He represented well the State of Tennessee, poised and articulate as he was when he successfully argued the case before the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals.

Our hope is that the Court affirms the Sixth Circuit and will leave it to the states to decide what marriages to recognize.

This has been the longstanding province of the states and our position is that it should stay that way.

Let the citizens of the state vote and decide such important issues.

As the Sixth Circuit said, decide by democracy rather than litigation.

We have a great system and it is in the hands of the best jurists in the country. I am confident Tennesseans will respect the Court’s decision, as they always have.”

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