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On Same-Sex Wedlock, Kennedy's Voice Is Key

Publication Date: 
February 09, 2012
Chicgo Tribune
David G. Savage

Professor Pamela S. Karlan spoke with David Savage of the Chicago Tribune on the importance of Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy's vote in the upcoming cases on gay rights.

The Supreme Court has nine justices, but if the constitutional fight over gay marriage reaches them this year, the decision likely will come down to just one: a Reagan-era conservative who has nonetheless written the court's two leading gay rights opinions.

Justice Anthony Kennedy, 75, often holds the court's deciding vote on the major issues that divide its liberals and conservatives. More often than not, that vote has swung the court to the right. But on gay rights, Kennedy has been anything but a "culture wars" conservative.


"He is a California establishment Republican with moderately libertarian instincts," Stanford Law professor Pamela Karlan said of Kennedy. "He travels in circles where he has met and likes lots of gay people."

Based on his past opinions, Karlan said, she is confident that if the Supreme Court takes up California's gay marriage ban, Proposition 8 "is going down to defeat. There is no way he (Kennedy) will take it to reinstate" the ban.