The Supreme Court will end the term’s oral argument schedule in April with important cases on same-sex marriage and the death penalty. And the justices announced Thursday that they will release same-day audio of the arguments on whether the Constitution protects the right of same-sex couples to marry.
The court will hear the cases — collectively known as Obergefell v. Hodges — on April 28. The court has set aside two and a half hours for oral arguments, which will concentrate on two questions: May states limit marriage to its traditional definition as only between a man and a woman, and must states recognize same-sex marriages performed where it is legal.
The U.S. Court of Appeals for the 6th Circuit split with every other appeals court in the country that has confronted the questions when it ruled that Kentucky, Michigan, Ohio and Tennessee are entitled to restrict licensing and recognition to heterosexual couples.
The Supreme Court in 2013 struck down a part of the Defense of Marriage Act that said the federal government would not recognize same-sex marriages performed where they are legal. But it has not ruled on the state recognition question, or whether states — which traditionally define marriage — must offer licenses to gay couples.
Dozens of federal courts have read the court’s reasoning in the DOMA case to mean that state bans on same-sex marriage are unconstitutional, and gay couples currently may marry in three-dozen states.
The court generally does not release audio of its proceedings on the same day as oral arguments. It turned down a request to do so in Wednesday’s case about the Affordable Care Act, King v. Burwell. But it decided differently in the marriage cases. The court did not explain its reasons. And, of course, cameras are not allowed in the Supreme Court.
The Obergefell cases will start at 10 a.m., and the court’s press release said, “The court will post the audio recording and unofficial transcript as soon as the digital files are available for uploading to the Website. The audio recording and transcript should be available no later than 2 p.m. on April 28.” They will be posted on the homepage at supremecourt.gov.
The death penalty case involves the lethal injection method used in Oklahoma. Critics of lethal injection have warned that the sedative midazolam might not work effectively and might subject those being executed to painful conditions that would violate the Constitution’s ban on cruel and unusual punishment.
Glossip v. Gross, the court’s first look at lethal injection procedures since 2008, will be heard on April 29, the last day of oral arguments. After that, the justices will write and issue opinions until finishing their work by the end of June.