Listen to key moments from the courtroom

The Su­preme Court justices are set to hear ar­gu­ments on Cali­for­nia’s Pro­pos­i­tion 8, which bans gay mar­riage, and the De­fense of Mar­riage Act, which denies fed­er­al spous­al be­ne­fits to same-sex couples. The justices could rule nar­rowly or ex­tend mar­riage rights na­tion­wide.

Timeline: Gay marriage across the U.S. | Pho­tos: Scenes and key players | Cheat sheet: DOMA vs. Prop. 8 | Full cov­er­age: Prop. 8

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Justice Roberts’ comments on standing

Several justices, including Chief Justice John G. Roberts, sounded skeptical Tuesday that Dennis Hollingsworth, a private citizen who led the group sponsoring the Prop. 8 ballot measure, could defend the state’s laws. “I don’t think we have ever allowed something like that,” Roberts said.

Justice Kennedy on harm to children

Justice Kennedy, while acknowledging that the long-term effects of legalized gay marriage are unknown, suggested that the tens of thousands of children of gay and lesbian couples in California have a voice in the case as well. “They want their parents to have full recognition,” he said.

Justice Kagan on procreative purpose

Justice Elena Kagan drew laughter in the courtroom when she pressed attorney Charles Cooper to explain why the government should deny marriage to same-sex couples. Cooper, who represents the sponsor of Prop. 8, said marriage was about “responsible procreation.”

Justice Roberts on the institution of marriage

If Kennedy made clear his sympathy to gay marriage in California, Chief Justice John G. Roberts and conservative colleagues were just as clear in saying they opposed the idea. Marriage has been limited to a man and a woman since “time immemorial,” Roberts said.

Attorney Ted Olson on the importance of labels

In an exchange with Chief Justice Roberts, Attorney Ted Olson contended that the label of marriage was just as important as the state recognition that comes with it. “It is like you were to say ‘You can vote, you can travel, but you may not be a citizen,’” Olson said.

Justice Kennedy on taking the case

Twice during the oral argument, Kennedy questioned why the court had voted to hear the California case. “I wonder if this case was properly granted,” Kennedy said.

Attorney Charles Cooper on potential harm

Attorney Charles Cooper said that allowing same-sex marriage could potentially harm marriage as an institution. “Among those real world consequences, Your Honor, we would suggest are adverse consequences.”

Justice Alito on the need for caution

Justice Alito stressed the need for caution going forward, citing the lack of data on same-sex marriage. “You want us to step in and render a decision based on an assessment of the effects of this institution which is newer than cell phones or the Internet?”

Published: March 26, 2013
Sources: Photos: Associated Press | Sketch: Dana Verkouteren, Associated Press
Credits: Produced by Evan Wagstaff, TimelineSetter

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