The nine justices of the Supreme Court began on Tuesday to hear arguments on whether the Constitution provides same-sex couples the right to marry, taking up a contentious social issue in what promises to be the year’s most anticipated ruling.
A crowd estimated at more than 1,000 people, with those favoring legalized gay marriage outnumbering those opposed, gathered outside the white marble courthouse as the nine justices started to hear 2-1/2 hours of oral arguments in the case, known as Obergefell v. Hodges.
Gay marriage advocates held up signs with slogans including “Love for all” and “America is ready for freedom to marry.” A smaller but vocal group of people against gay marriage held signs including one calling gay sex sinful and another stating, “Satan rules over all, the children of pride.”
The decision, due by the end of June, will determine whether gay marriage will be legal nationwide. The arguments center on gay marriage bans in Kentucky, Michigan, Ohio and Tennessee, four of the 13 states that currently prohibit it.
All eyes will be on conservative Justice Anthony Kennedy, who may cast the deciding fifth vote on a court closely divided on gay rights. The four liberal justices are expected to support same-sex marriage, and Kennedy has a history of backing gay rights. In decisions since 1996, Kennedy has broadened the court’s view of equality for gays.
Read More: Supreme Court hears landmark gay marriage case | Reuters