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The Role Of Plaintiffs In Supreme Court Cases

Pete Springer/OPB

On Friday, the U.S. Supreme Court announced it will taking up the issue of same-sex marriage this term. The court will  settle two important and interrelated questions. First: are state bans on same-sex marriage constitutional? Second: should states be required to recognize legal marriages from other states? With fourteen state bans of same-sex marriages on the line, this is already being called a landmark case.
The plaintiffs at the heart of it are couples from Ohio, Michigan, Kentucky, and Tennessee, and as NPR legal affairs correspondent Nina Totenberg mentioned on the day of the announcement, “they look like the perfect poster children for gay marriage.”
This got us wondering just how much their individual stories will make a difference in the case.
In other words, when an issue makes its way to the highest court in the land, how much of the ultimate decision hinges on the messy, human details, and how much is based on cold, hard legal reasoning?

We’ll take up that question with New York Times Magazine staff writer and senior research fellow at Yale Law School Emily Bazelon.

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