Court watchers: Opinion shift on gay marriage hard for justices to ignore

by
June 18, 2013

The dramatic shift in public opinion on same-sex marriage is likely to affect the Supreme Court’s historic rulings on the issue later this month, say legal scholars.

The justices often say they do not worry at all about politics or public opinion, and simply do what they believe the law compels them to.

But it will be hard if not impossible for them ignore the enormous transformation in opinion on same sex marriage, court watchers say, especially with two cases that offer them flexibility in how to rule.

“I have to think the justices — and especially the chief — are very cognizant of the shifting public opinion,” said Carl Tobias, a law professor at the University of Richmond.



The justices aren’t driven by polling the way elected lawmakers are, but they are often mindful of the court’s credibility. Chief Justice John Roberts, in particular, has shown himself to be an “institutionalist” who wants to protect the court’s legitimacy, Tobias said. That was clear in last year’s decision on ObamaCare.

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