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Seven-lawyer line-up for same-sex marriage hearings?

If the Supreme Court agrees to plans made by lawyers involved in the same-sex marriage cases, seven attorneys will take turns at the lectern for the two-and-a-half-hour hearing on April 28.  Both sides in the four cases sent in their proposals on Tuesday, responding to the Court’s request for them to coordinate.

The lawyers were told that the Court would hold ninety minutes of argument on the power of states to ban marriage of same-sex couples, and one hour on the power of states to refuse to recognize existing same-sex marriages.  The Obama administration is asking permission to argue only on the first question.

The couples proposed that three lawyers, including one from the office of the U.S. Solicitor General, argue in support of same-sex marriage — presumably, the first round.   The couples would then have two lawyers argue the recognition question.  One lawyer on each question would represent the states.  Although there are four states involved, only two would have lawyers at the lectern, speaking for all four.

The proposals to the Court did not specify which lawyers will argue for the couples.  For the states, former Michigan Solicitor General John J. Bursch will argue the same-sex marriage question, while an associate solicitor general for Tennessee, Joseph F. Whalen, will argue the recognition issue.

Among the four cases that the Justices have agreed to review, cases from Kentucky and Michigan raise the marriage question, while cases from Ohio and Tennessee focus on the recognition issue — which is also a separate issue for Kentucky.

Under the proposal by the couples’ lawyer, two lawyers for the couples will have fifteen minutes each on the first question, as will a federal government lawyer, and two lawyers for the couples will have fifteen minutes each on the recognition issue.

The couples’ lawyers argued that because some of the arguments on either side of both questions are different, the Court should hear all of the lawyers to get a full picture of what is at issue.

Recommended Citation: Lyle Denniston, Seven-lawyer line-up for same-sex marriage hearings?, SCOTUSblog (Mar. 17, 2015, 4:06 PM),