Slatest PM: Is DOMA on the Ropes?

Your News Companion by Ben Mathis-Lilley
March 27 2013 4:53 PM

Slatest PM: Is DOMA on the Ropes?

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Kristina VanSant (C) of Short Hills, New Jersey, joins fellow George Washington University students and hundreds of others to rally outside the Supreme Court during oral arguments in a case challenging the Defense of Marriage Act

Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

Josh Voorhees Josh Voorhees

Josh Voorhees is a Slate senior writer. He lives in Iowa City. 

DOMA on the Ropes?: New York Times: "The Supreme Court appeared ready on Wednesday to strike down a central part of a federal law that defines marriage as the union of a man and a woman as a majority of the justices expressed reservations about the Defense of Marriage Act on the second day of intense arguments over the volatile issue of same-sex marriage. Justice Anthony M. Kennedy, who most likely holds the decisive vote, returned again and again to the theme that deciding who is married is a matter for the states. The federal government, he said, should respect 'the historic commitment of marriage and questions of the rights of children to the states.' That suggests that he is prepared to vote with the court’s four liberal members to strike down the part of the 1996 law that recognizes only the marriage of opposite-sex couples for more than 1,000 federal laws and programs. Such a ruling would deliver federal benefits to married same-sex couples in the nine states, and the District of Columbia, that allow such unions." Full audio and transcripts here. Analysis from Slate's Emily Bazelon here.

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Refresher Course: Early analysis is just that. Court watchers and the media often read too much into oral arguments (see: Obamacare), so we won't know anything for sure until the court issues its decision later this year, likely sometime in June.

A Potential Roadblock: Washington Post: "But before the justices decide the merits of the DOMA challenge, they must decide whether the case is properly before them. And conservative justices expressed doubt about the way the issue arrived at the court. The Obama administration has said that it will not defend the law ... and lower courts have said it is unconstitutional to deny federal benefits to same-sex couples who are legally married in the states where they live while offering the same benefits to opposite-sex married couples. At the same time, however, the administration has said it will continue to enforce the law until the Supreme Court rules. ... Those technical questions dominated the first part of Wednesday’s oral arguments. A court-appointed attorney arguing that a group of Republican leaders in the U.S. House of Representatives has no standing to defend DOMA in court, and that the Obama administration was not a viable party because it agrees with the lower courts. [Justice Antonin] Scalia and Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. were the most critical of the approach the Obama administration has taken about the law."

The Woman of the Moment: Associated Press: "When Edith Windsor got engaged in the 1960s to the woman who eventually became her wife she asked for a pin instead of a ring. A ring would have meant awkward questions, she said: Who is he? Where is he? And when do we meet him? On Wednesday, the 83-year-old stood on the steps of the U.S. Supreme Court, the face of a case that could change how the U.S. government treats married gay couples. She wore a grey pants suit and her diamond engagement pin."

Happy Wednesday and welcome back to the Slatest PM. Follow your afternoon host on Twitter at @JoshVoorhees and the whole team at @slatest.

Holmes Looks to Avoid Death Penalty: USA Today: "Attorneys for Denver-area theater shooting suspect James Holmes have offered to have him plead guilty and be jailed for life to avoid the death penalty, KUSA-TV is reporting. The prosecution has not yet responded to the offer, which came in a court filing Wednesday. ... The 25-year-old Holmes is charged with first-degree murder for the July 20 rampage that killed 12 moviegoers and wounded dozens more at the premiere of the latest Batman film at a multiplex in Aurora."

Loughner's Past: CBS News: "Documents released Wednesday detailing the shooting of former Rep. Gabrielle Giffords show how the gunman had grown increasingly erratic and delusional in the months leading up to the rampage as he alienated friends and family and became paranoid that police were out to get him. ... The files also provide the first glimpse into gunman Jared Lee Loughner's family. His parents have said nothing publicly beyond a brief statement after the attack, but records show they were trying to deal with a son who had grown nearly impossible to communicate with."

Internet Trouble?: New York Times: "A squabble between a group fighting spam and a Dutch company that hosts Web sites said to be sending spam has escalated into one of the largest computer attacks on the Internet, causing widespread congestion and jamming crucial infrastructure around the world. Millions of ordinary Internet users have experienced delays in services like Netflix or could not reach a particular Web site for a short time. ... The attacks are becoming increasingly powerful, and computer security experts worry that if they continue to escalate people may not be able to reach basic Internet services, like e-mail and online banking."

Cyprus Update: Reuters: "Cyprus reopens its banks on Thursday while limiting withdrawals, banning cheques and curbing the use of Cypriot credit cards abroad, among measures imposed to avert a bank run after it agreed a tough rescue deal with international lenders. The Central Bank said banks would open their doors at midday (5 a.m. EST) on Thursday after nearly two weeks when Cypriots could only get cash through limited ATM withdrawals."

A Second Dinner Date: Politico: "President Barack Obama will continue his congressional charm offensive at a second dinner with Senate Republicans next month. The April 10 dinner will include a dozen GOP members invited by Sen. Johnny Isakson (R-Ga.), Republican aides said Wednesday. The location is yet to be determined."

A Comeback Tour?: ABC News: "David Petraeus apologized in front of an audience of about 600, who welcomed him with a standing ovation, for an extramarital affair with his biographer in his first public speech since resigning as the head of the CIA. 'Needless to say, I join you, keenly aware that I am regarded in a different light now than I was a year ago,' Petraeus said Tuesday night to an audience of mostly veterans at the University of Southern California's annual ROTC dinner at a hotel in Los Angeles. ... The decorated war hero and former four-star general has remained out of the public eye since his affair with writer Paula Broadwell was revealed in November. The former commander of U.S. and ISAF forces in Afghanistan addressed the affair only one other time in a statement the day he resigned as CIA director."

A Few More Quick Hits From Slate

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