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Meanwhile, Kennedy wondered aloud whether the best option for the court would be to dismiss the case outright and leave its questions for a day in the future when more information about gay marriage is available. “I just wonder if the case was properly granted,” he told Olson at one point.Public Opinion Ahead of Court
Public opinion is changing rapidly in favor of same-sex marriage rights, with one recent poll showing that 6 in 10 Americans — an all-time high — now believe it should be legal for gay couples to wed.
Last May, Barack Obama became the first president to endorse gay marriage. Last week, Obama’s former secretary of state and chief rival for the 2008 Democratic presidential nomination, Hillary Rodham Clinton, announced that she also supports same-sex marriage.
Senators from both sides of the aisle, including Democrats Claire McCaskill of Missouri, Jon Tester of Montana and Mark Warner of Virginia, and Republican Rob Portman of Ohio, also declared their support for gay marriage ahead of Tuesday’s arguments.
While the subject of gay marriage remains a culturally explosive issue in many parts of the country, congressional Republicans have generally steered clear of the Proposition 8 case, both because of the shifting politics surrounding it and the fact that it is primarily a state, rather than a federal, issue.
One prominent congressional conservative, however, said the Supreme Court would be straying from the Constitution if it agreed to provide constitutional marriage rights for same-sex couples.
“The Constitution never contemplated marriage being anything other than between a man and a woman,” Rep. Steve King, R-Iowa, said in a statement. “And for the United States Supreme Court to come to an opposite conclusion would mean, I think, a real distortion of the Constitution, which is a contractual guarantee between each of the generations.”
The Supreme Court is expected to issue its opinion in the case in late June.
On Wednesday, the justices will tackle another high-profile gay marriage case when they will evaluate the constitutionality of a portion of the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act, which defines marriage for federal purposes as the union of a man and a woman.