CINCINNATI — Three federal judges weighing arguments in a landmark gay marriage hearing Wednesday peppered attorneys on both sides with tough questions, with one judge expressing deep skepticism about whether courts are the ideal setting for major social change and another saying the democratic process can be too slow.
The judges in the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals considered arguments in six cases from Michigan, Ohio, Kentucky and Tennessee, setting the stage for rulings in each state that would put more pressure on the U.S. Supreme Court to decide the issue once and for all. Wednesday's hearing was the biggest so far on the issue.
The cases pit states' rights and traditional, conservative values against what plaintiffs' attorneys say is a fundamental right to marry under the Constitution.
Questions and comments from two of the judges all but gave away how they'll rule — one in favor of gay marriage and one opposed.
Judge Jeffrey S. Sutton vigorously challenged some of each side's assertions and said change should come when Americans are ready to vote for it.
But Judge Martha Craig Daughtrey said that historically, courts have had to intervene when individual constitutional rights are being violated.
Constitutional law professors and court observers say the 6th Circuit could be the first to uphold statewide bans on gay marriage after an unbroken string of more than 20 rulings in the past eight months have gone the other way.