wednesday, 29 april of 2015

U.S. top court divided on gay marriage, Kennedy appears pivotal

The U.S. Supreme Court appeared sharply divided on Tuesday on whether the Constitution guarantees a right to same-sex marriage, but pivotal Justice Anthony Kennedy seemed to inch cautiously toward legalizing gay nuptials nationwide.

In 2-1/2 hours of arguments, the nine black-robed justices peppered lawyers on both sides of the issue with questions in the landmark case centering on a contentious social issue, but appeared split as they often do along ideological lines.

Kennedy, a conservative who often casts the deciding vote in close cases and has a history of backing gay rights, posed tough questions to both sides but seemed to give hope to gay marriage advocates by stressing the nobility and dignity of same-sex couples.

At one point during the arguments in the decorous white-marble, crimson-draped courtroom, a protester shouted that the justices would "burn in hell" if they backed gay marriage. He was dragged by police screaming from the packed courtroom and was later charged with several misdemeanors.

The court's four liberal justices seemed willing to vote in favor of gay marriage, while the court's conservatives, including Chief Justice John Roberts, appeared inclined to back the right of states to restrict the definition of marriage.

During the first part of the argument, focusing on the question of whether there is a constitutional right for gay couples to marry, Kennedy challenged one of the key assertions made by states that ban gay marriage: that same-sex couples do not have the same bonds with their children as straight couples.

"That was very interesting, but it's just a wrong premise," Kennedy told John Bursch, the lawyer arguing in favor of state bans.

Kennedy told Bursch his argument "assumes that same-sex couples cannot have the more noble purpose" shown by opposite-sex couples when marrying. Kennedy also questioned Bursch's argument that marriage is not a "dignity bestowing" right.

(Published by Reuters – April 28, 2015)

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