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Start your morning with this excellent essay by Slate’s Dahlia Lithwick about instances where the wheels fell off the gay marriage opposition bus yesterday, including most notably the failure of attorneys for that side to reach the critical swing vote, Justice Anthony Kennedy, where he lives — in the world of dignity.

As Lithwick points out, Kennedy has been all about dignity — she calls him the “dignity-whisperer” — in court decisions he’s authored touching upon the institution of marriage.

So when counsel for Michigan defending that state’s ban paints marriage into some sort of biological-bonding corner, he gets Kennedy’s goat:

[T]here is a rather extraordinary moment Tuesday morning . . . when Kennedy finds himself in an argument with John Bursch, Michigan’s special assistant attorney general, about whether marriage is a dignity-conferring enterprise, or not. Bursch, defending his state’s ban on same-sex marriage, is explaining that the purpose of marriage is not to confer dignity but to keep parents bonded to their biological children.

Justice Kennedy—who opened argument Tuesday morning with the observation that this whole case is about an institution whose definition has gone unchanged for millennia—looks rather shocked. The author of the majority decision outlawing sodomy bans in Lawrence v. Texas (“Adults may choose to enter upon this relationship in the confines of their homes and their own private lives and still retain their dignity as free persons”) and the decision striking down the Defense of Marriage Act in United States v. Windsor (“It seems fair to conclude that, until recent years, many citizens had not even considered the possibility that two persons of the same sex might aspire to occupy the same status and dignity as that of a man and woman in lawful marriage”) did not want to hear this. Indeed, it seems like Kennedy wanted it to be perfectly clear that he is the guy who gets to say that if marriage is nothing else, it is a dignity-stamper.

The tussle between Kennedy and Bursch doesn’t end there, with the attorney circling back to the dignity point later in the argument:

Bursch circles back to say, again, “marriage was never intended to be dignity bestowing.” At which point Kennedy almost bursts a pipe: “I don’t understand that [marriage] is not dignity bestowing. I thought that was the whole purpose of marriage. It bestows dignity on both man and woman in a traditional marriage. … It’s dignity bestowing, and these parties say they want to have that same ennoblement.”

Bursch replies that the “state is trying to figure out how do we link together these kids with their biological moms and dads when possible, the glue are benefits and burdens, but not necessarily dignity.” Anthony “Dignity” Kennedy can’t even believe it: “Well, I think many states would be surprised, with reference to traditional marriages, they are not enhancing the dignity of both the parties.” It seems to me that nobody puts Dignity Kennedy in the corner. Not even Michigan.

Read more on the argument yesterday here, and what the case might mean for North Carolina here.

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News
(Sketch: Art Lien @Courtartist)

(Sketch: Art Lien @Courtartist)

Starting at 10 a.m. , the U.S. Supreme Court begins hearing two-and-a-half hours of argument in the cases challenging state bans on same-sex marriage.

Since no cameras or other audio/video equipment is allowed in the courtroom, there will be no live feed of the argument.

The Court is, however, expediting the release of the taped argument, which should be available by 2 p.m. today.

In the meantime, we’ll be posting about the arguments here as we learn more from experts and others who are in the courtroom.

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More on audio feed at the Court:

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Images from outside the Court:

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Hillary Rodham Clinton showing support:

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From the New York Times:

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First updates from SCOTUSblog:

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Reaction so far:  “skeptical” questions from the justices:

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Attorney for challengers wrapping up initial argument (from SCOTUSblog):

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First update on challengers’ argument from NYT:

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SCOTUSblog on questions from Justice Anthony Kennedy:

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Justices “deeply divided,” says NYT’s Adam Liptak in this initial report:

The Supreme Court on Tuesday seemed deeply divided about one of the great civil rights issues of the age: whether the Constitution guarantees same-sex couples the right to marry.

The justices appeared to clash over not only what is the right answer but also over how to reach it. The questioning illuminated their conflicting views on history, tradition, biology, constitutional interpretation, the democratic process and the role of the courts in prodding social change.

Justice Anthony M. Kennedy said he was concerned about changing a conception of marriage that has persisted for millennia. Later, though, he expressed qualms about excluding gay families from what he called a noble and sacred institution. Chief Justice John C. Roberts Jr. worried about shutting down a fast-moving societal debate.

In the initial questioning, which lasted about 90 minutes, Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr. asked whether groups of four people must be allowed to marry, while Justice Antonin Scalia said a ruling for same-sex marriage might require some members of the clergy to perform the ceremonies, even if they violate their religious teaching.

Justice Stephen G. Breyer described marriage as a fundamental liberty. And Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Elena Kagan said that allowing same-sex marriage would do no harm to the marriages of opposite-sex couples.

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LISTEN NOW — Audio from first part of same-sex marriage cases is up and can be heard HERE

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Second part of the argument focused on the questions of whether states must recognize gay marriages legally performed elsewhere.  That argument wrapped up at 12:30 p.m. and concluded today’s session.

Below are few more snippets from the day:

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Commentary

In case you missed it today over on the main NCPW site, this morning’s Weekly Briefing (“The growing momentum for tuition equity”) explains why the fights for LGBT equality and fair treatment for immigrant kids have a surprising amount in common.

“It may seem odd at first to compare the plight of immigrant kids with that of LGBT adults seeking equality, but when you take a minute to consider the matter, the parallels are striking. There’s the matter of being forced to live in hiding, the effort by society to punish and even criminalize the mere act of existing and, of course, the venom both groups have been forced for so long to endure from a lot of their fellow Americans.

And now, happily, there is also the rapidly developing common experience of a societal attitude overhaul. Where once the idea of marriage equality for gay and lesbian Americans seemed unimaginable, it is now clearly here to stay.

And so, increasingly, it is with the matter of public policy solutions for undocumented kids (and maybe even their parents). Though still disparaged as ‘aliens’ and ‘invaders’ by a shrinking number of hard core nativists and paranoiacs, more and more undocumented immigrants – especially young people who have lived in the U.S. for big chunks (if not most) of their lives – are coming out and speaking out.

They may not have been born in the U.S.A., but millions of immigrant kids are, effectively, as ‘American’ as anyone else. The United States is the only country they know. Their friends are American, their schools and teachers and daily life experiences are American, the taxes they pay are American. Meanwhile, the notion of sending them elsewhere is widely and increasingly understood to be absurd.”

Click here to read the entire essay.

Commentary

equality overtonThe growing disconnect between the last gaspers in the far right anti-equality movement and the modern global business community is on full display this week.

Today, Raleigh’s News & Observer ran an editorial by Apple CEO Tim Cook that appeared in yesterday’s Washington Post in which Cook blasted the nation’s soon-to-dissipate wave of state discrimination laws masquerading under the banner “religious freedom.”

Here’s Cook:

“America’s business community recognized a long time ago that discrimination, in all its forms, is bad for business. At Apple, we are in business to empower and enrich our customers’ lives. We strive to do business in a way that is just and fair. That’s why, on behalf of Apple, I’m standing up to oppose this new wave of legislation – wherever it emerges. I’m writing in the hopes that many more will join this movement. From North Carolina to Nevada, these bills under consideration truly will hurt jobs, growth and the economic vibrancy of parts of the country where a 21st-century economy was once welcomed with open arms.”

The message from Cook, head of one of the nation’s largest and most profitable companies, couldn’t be much clearer: “North Carolina: get you act together or be left behind even further than you already are.”

Happily, Gov. Pat McCrory seemed to echo Cook when he told an interviewer the bill “makes no sense” and similarly criticized the state Senate’s silly proposal to exempt magistrates from doing their duty to marry all couples who lawfully present themselves for marriage.

One word that was notably absent from the Guv’s statements on the issue thus far (at least in the reports I’ve seen) was “veto.” Let’s hope this was just an oversight and not another example of McCrory’s frustrating tendency to pontificate against controversial ideas and let them become law without his signature. If McCrory really wants to act like a leader on this matter, he should get out in front and nip it in the bud by sending a strong message to the members the General Assembly.

Commentary
Indiana Gov. Mike Pence, Image: www.thinkprogress.org

Indiana Gov. Mike Pence, Image: www.thinkprogress.org

The Charlotte Observer was actually quite moderate and restrained in its editorial over the weekend criticizing the latest dying gasp of the nation’s pro-discrimination movement. The editorial — “Indiana shows what not do” — highlighted the so-called “religious freedom” law enacted in Indiana. The law — which was designed by conservatives opposed to LGBT equality — has already set off a firestorm amongst more-forward looking corporate types who are rethinking their involvement with the Hoosier state. Here’s the Observer:

“Given the permissive definition of “religion” in the bills, though, the allowed discrimination would hardly stop with the LGBT community. Even if such cases are only episodic, even one is too many and the state’s image takes a hit.

[Indiana Governor Mike] Pence defended the Indiana law by saying he doesn’t think it legalizes discrimination, and N.C. legislators will say it is simply about freedom of religion. But in practice the bills undeniably open the door to discrimination against almost anyone….

Does North Carolina really want to go down this road? Do we want to sanction discrimination by letting anyone deny service to whomever they please? Do we want to jeopardize conventions, job growth and the ability to recruit?

Arizona was going to last year, but under pressure from the NFL and others, Gov. Jan Brewer vetoed the bill. If it reaches his desk, Gov. Pat McCrory should do the same here.”

And here’s another reason to be against the offensive, copycat legislation filed in the North Carolina Senate and House: It’s morally wrong, offensive and un-American. As Think Progress reported yesterday, the discrimination has already started in Indiana. And one doesn’t have to be a MENSA member to imagine the myriad forms of discrimination that some troubled souls in our state would readily engage in if given the green light by state government.

After all, it was the same talk about “religious liberty” that was frequently used as an excuse by those who refused to serve people of color and interracial couples back in the last century. Anyone who thinks that ugly beast wouldn’t reemerge is kidding themselves.

The bottom line: Let’s hope state political and business leaders nip this nonsense in the bud ASAP and that North Carolinians can avoid the ignominy of seeing their governor go on national TV to defend discrimination and hate.