Two landmark cases for the future of traditional marriage in America will be heard today and tomorrow at the US Supreme Court.
Today nine judges will hear arguments about whether to overturn a public vote in California to protect traditional marriage in the state’s constitution.
Tomorrow the same judges will hear a different case, on whether to overturn a federal law which protects states from being forced to recognise gay marriage against their will.
The court is expected to hand down its rulings before the end of June, and it could potentially legalise gay marriage right across America.
Four of the nine judges are known to have socially liberal values, and four are known to be conservatives.
The one ‘swing vote’ judge, Justice Kennedy, has hinted that he is unlikely to support a sweeping ruling which would impose gay marriage.
He said: “A democracy should not be dependent for its major decisions on what nine unelected people from a narrow legal background have to say.”
President Obama has urged the court to find in favour of gay marriage, but thousands of traditional marriage supporters are expected to march to the court in protest.
The march is organised by the National Organization for Marriage (NOM), the group that is leading the campaign in the US to stop marriage being redefined.
NOM’s president Brian Brown said: “The Supreme Court has no right to redefine marriage and roll back the efforts of Americans to protect marriage as the union of one man and one woman, the only social arrangement that gives children the mother and father they deserve.”
He added: “This is the beginning of the fight to protect marriage. Our opponents know this, which is why they are hoping the Supreme Court will cut short a debate they know they will ultimately lose if the political process and democracy are allowed to run their course.”
Alliance Defending Freedom, another group which supports traditional marriage, says gay marriage should not be imposed by the court.
A spokesman said: “Californians and Congress voted for marriage, and the court should respect the freedom to affirm society’s fundamental building block.
“Marriage between a man and a woman is a bedrock social institution that diverse cultures and faiths have honored throughout the history of Western Civilization.
“The freedom of the people to affirm this vital institution should not be taken away.”