Today's marriage equality hearing at the U.S. Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals has concluded, and early reactions and analyses from reporters are now coming in. The complete audio files have also been released; they're after the break, so skip down if you'd like.
The judges, as expected, did not rule from the bench today, so now comes the guessing game. As usual with court cases, it's all tea-leaf reading at this point (albeit educated tea-leaf reading), but it looks like most people are expecting a 2-1 decision. Judge Daughtrey, a Clinton appointee, strongly indicated that she will vote to strike down bans on same-sex marriage, while George W. Bush appointee Deborah Cook is considered a reliable vote for marriage discrimination.
The wild card is Judge Jeffrey Sutton, another George W. Bush appointee who reportedly expressed skepticism about banning same-sex marriage but also indicated he was nervous about getting out too far ahead of the American public on the issue. Given that polls consistently show that a majority of Americans support the freedom to marry I'm not exactly sure who he's worried about, but I digress...
Either way, I'm not worried. If the court decides -- as every single court has in the post-Windsor era -- that prohibiting same-sex couples from marrying violates the Constitution, then we'll have another victory to add to the list. If they break the pattern and rule against us, that will set up a conflict between circuits, as both the Fourth and Tenth Circuits have ruled for marriage equality. And a conflict between circuits would all but ensure that the Supreme Court takes up the constitutional question of marriage equality.
Reactions from reporters at the courthouse are below.
Marriage bans took a beating. 2 justices - Daughtrey and Sutton - were skeptical of laws. Cook was quiet, but seemed to want to uphold them.— Chris Johnson (@chrisjohnson82) August 6, 2014
Sutton said ban "does seem harder to justify even on rational basis grounds" through lens of changing perception of purpose of marriage.— Chris Johnson (@chrisjohnson82) August 6, 2014
Daughtry skeptical about procreation argument. Responding to Qs, Tenn. lawyer refused to say why excluding gay couples advances procreation.— Chris Johnson (@chrisjohnson82) August 6, 2014
First impressions: Sutton totally doesn't want to rule. Knows gay marriage is inevitable? Seems to loath court fiat— Steve Friess (@SteveFriess) August 6, 2014
Daugherty was sassy and v v pro-gay. Cook asked few ?s, most of them baffling. Known to b v conservative— Steve Friess (@SteveFriess) August 6, 2014
Sutton's ruminations about which path is better for #gays was...unusual. Like all these lawyers & plaintiffs hadn't thought of it b4 suing.— Steve Friess (@SteveFriess) August 6, 2014
As expected, today's 6th Cir marriage arguments will come down to Judge Jeffrey Sutton. His main concern was Baker, then democratic process.— Chris Geidner (@chrisgeidner) August 6, 2014
If Sutton gets past Baker - which it's not clear that he will - then I think he will struggle w whether a constitutional solution is needed.— Chris Geidner (@chrisgeidner) August 6, 2014
Also worth noting is that Judge Daughtrey ripped discredited anti-gay "researcher" Mark Regnerus, whom the state of Michigan called as an expert witness back in March and whose testimony was subsequently shredded by District Judge Bernard Friedman as "entirely unbelievable and not worthy of serious consideration":
COA's Judge Daughtrey on State's witness Regnerus from trial, "Even the Texas prof's university says don't believe anything this man says— Amy Lange (@langeamyFOX2) August 6, 2014
The full audio from today's oral arguments is after the jump, via Freedom to Marry.