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Supreme Court Heard Same-Sex Marriage Arguments

BuzzFeed News reporters Chris Geidner and Dominic Holden were in court Tuesday for the historic arguments that will determine if same-sex couples have a constitutional right to marry.

Last updated on April 28, 2015, at 2:27 p.m. ET

Posted on April 28, 2015, at 7:41 a.m. ET

Andrew Harnik / AP

What We Know So Far

  • The Supreme Court is taking up the cases of same-sex couples, some of their children, and two widowers from Kentucky, Michigan, Ohio, and Tennessee, arguments began at 10 a.m. Tuesday
  • The proceeding will determine two things, whether the 14th Amendment requires states to permit same-sex marriage and if states that do not permit same-sex marriage must recognize those unions from other states.
  • Dozens of people started lining up outside of the Supreme Court four days ago, hoping to get a seat to hear Tuesday's arguments.
  • Same-sex couples are able to marry in 36 states and the District of Columbia.
  • White House Senior Adviser Valerie Jarrett toasted the plaintiffs and lawyers Monday night at a Freedom to Marry reception.
  • Texas lawmakers in Austin were advancing a bill ahead of the decision that would prohibit the Lone Star state from using state or local funds to license or recognize same-sex marriage.


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Michael Roberts, 81, is straight and married. His wife Paulette Roberts officiated the wedding ceremony for Jim Obergefell and John Arthur on a medical jet in Baltimore on July 11, 2013.

Michael Roberts, 81, straight. "Gay people are a splendid edition to society. #SCOTUSmarriage

Paulette and Michael Roberts were Arthur's aunt and uncle. Arthur died just three months after he was married.

"Jim is very close to us. He's like a son. We are strong believers in equality and same-sex partners to marry," Michael Roberts said outside of the Supreme Court Tuesday.

"I remember when roving bands would go and beat gay people with impunity. I saw that in my lifetime. Early on, people were willing to come out and take spears and stones help this society," he added.

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Mladen Antonov / Getty Images

At Tuesday's marriage arguments over same-sex couples' marriage rights, the majority of the court appeared to be comfortable with Justice Anthony Kennedy's understanding of human dignity as including gay people's equal treatment under the law.

While Kennedy, who is considered the key swing vote in the case, did not make any unambiguous statement about the end result of the case, he harshly questioned the state of Michigan's argument that it should be allowed to exclude same-sex couples from marriage.

At one point, Kennedy commented to Michigan's lawyer that it's law banning same-sex couples from marrying "assumes" that those couple's can't have the same "more noble purpose" as opposite sex couples have for entering marriage. Joined often by Justices Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan, the lawyer defending marriage bans, John Bursch, faced repeated questions about what other limits state's could constitutionally place on marriages and whether the state's claimed interest amounted to anything more than, as Sotomayor asked, a "ceiling…that doesn't have logic."

Although questions were asked, including by Kennedy, about the length of the understanding of marriage as only an institution between one man and one woman, Kennedy also noted that "about the same time" passed between the Supreme Court's decision ending "separate-but-equal" with regards to racial discrimination and it's landmark decision ending interracial marriage as has passed between the Supreme Court's decision ending sodomy laws and today's arguments.

Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Stephen Breyer also appeared in questioning to be sympathetic same-sex couples' marriage arguments.

Chief Justice John Roberts asked probing question of both sides, never betraying a strong affinity towards either sides' arguments.

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From second #SCOTUS arg, outcome on "recognition" seems tied to broader Q about right to marry. Silence from AMK may encourage proponents.

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Republican senator Mark Kirk spoke to the crowd, saying "life comes down to who you love and who loves you — and government has no role to play and that."

Republican @SenatorKirk come to #SCOTUS steps and said @GOP "would be stronger" if it backed same-sex marriage.

Kirk, who joined a Republican brief to the court supporting same-sex couples' right to marry, described the crowd as a "raucous left-wing group." He said the GOP "would be stronger" if it backed same-sex marriage and diversity. Adding that he thinks more Republicans support LGBT rights than actually voice their support.

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Crowd at #SCOTUSmarriage has spilled off steps & sidewalk in front of the court to consume sidewalk across street.

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Stuart Gaffney and John Lewis have been together 28 years. They were married in 2004 while at a protest on the steps of San Francisco City Hall, when then mayor Gavin Newsom unexpectedly opened up the doors to issue marriage licenses.

Stuart Gaffney and John Lewis in the tuxes they got married in at SF City Hall in 2004, came for #SCOTUSmarriage.

"We were one of the first 10 couples to be married,” said Lewis, who added that the nuptials were not planned.

"No!" he said. "We had no idea we were going to get married."

The couple showed up to the Supreme Court dressed in the tuxedos they wore when they were married more than a decade ago.

"It was tremendous to finally be treated as equal as a gay man by our government," said Lewis. "That taste of equality in my first hour in the movement brought me from the steps of San Francisco City Hall to the steps of the Supreme Court. Hopefully the justices will make equality a reality in our nation."

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A protestor has just been removed from the Courtroom -- it came immediately after the petitioner's argument. Hard to hear what he's saying.

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Kentucky plaintiff Paul Campion overcome by turnout at Supreme Court, says he leads a "pretty quiet life."

The family of Kentucky plaintiffs Randy Johnson and Paul Campion, couple on the right, about to enter #SCOTUS.

Paul Campion and his partner Randy Johnson were married in California in 2004 and they are asking Kentucky to recognize their marriage.

"I love this. My gosh, it's wonderful," Campion said Tuesday. "I lead a pretty quiet life so [this attention] is daunting. But hopefully this will make it easier for the next generation of gays and lesbians, especially the ones who don't have a lot of support from their families."

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Front of the line for #SCOTUS marriage arguments, including Robin Tyler, Jim Obergefell, Chad Griffin & Julian Bond.

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A huge crowd has gathered in front of the Supreme Court building on Tuesday morning, filling all of the available space from corner to corner. The group unfurled a giant rainbow pride flag before the front steps of the courthouse.

A giant pride has been unfurled in front of #SCOTUSmarriage.

The lawyer for plaintiffs arguing a constitutional right to marry, Mary Bonauto, emerged from a car and walked up the steps to applause and howls of enthusiasm from fans. Meanwhile, Conservative protesters, arguing that homosexuality is a Biblical sin punishable by hellfire, have been drowned out by the swell of pride. Revelers have blocked the naysayers with a wall of pride flags, and more than a dozen members of the Washington, D.C., Men's Chorus are prepared to overwhelm dissent by belting out the national anthem.

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Westbro Baptist Church is here — of course — singing "Fat bottomed whore will, by our mighty lord, go down." #SCOTUS

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A wall of equality flags has been assembled to block the anti-gay protesters. Everyone seems happy. #SCOTUSMarriage

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People gathered outside of the Supreme Court Tuesday morning ahead of same-sex marriage arguments.

A BuzzFeed News investigation, in partnership with the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, based on thousands of documents the government didn't want you to see.