Antonin Scalia, Federal Government, Gay, Gay Marriage, John Roberts, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, SCOTUS, Supreme Court

The DOMA Arguments at SCOTUS: Five Money Quotes

Looking at my notes from today’s United States v. Windsor argument on DOMA at the U.S. Supreme Court, “$Q” is everywhere. That’s my shorthand for “money quote.” The merits part of the argument was $Q after $Q, moments that made an impact, in some cases if only to show where a justice might be headed.

Here are five. Look forward to bringing you more in-depth analysis of the argument in the next couple of days.

Solicitor General Verrilli’s FUMBA
“Now, this statute is not called the Federal Uniform Marriage Benefits Act; it’s called the Defense of Marriage Act. . . . DOMA was not enacted for any purpose of uniformity, administration, caution, pausing, any of that. It was enacted to exclude same-sex married, lawfully married couples from Federal benefit regimes . . . .” (Hat tip on the FUMBA acronym to the attorney sitting next to me during the argument.)

Justice Ginsburg in the Dairy Aisle
There is “full marriage, and then this sort of skim milk marriage.”

Really!?! with Chief Justice Roberts
“You don’t doubt that the lobby supporting the enactment of same-sex marriage laws in different States is politically powerful, do you? [Affirmative response.] Really? . . . As far as I can tell, political figures are falling over themselves to endorse your side of the case.”

Justice Scalia’s Federalism Problem
“What do you mean whether or not it would work? I don’t care if it works. . . . [D]oes it create a federalism problem?” (referring to how a federal definition of marriage that includes same-sex couples would affect states that do not recognize those unions).

Justice Kagan Quotes the House Report
“I’m going to quote from the House Report here . . . that ‘Congress decided to reflect an honor of collective moral judgment and to express moral disapproval of homosexuality.’ Is that what happened in 1996?”

This last one got a huge cheer in the lawyers’ lounge at the Supreme Court, where I heard the arguments live. Alas, 3:15 a.m. was not early enough to get into the courtroom today. I guess that’s what to expect from a $A (money argument).

Attorney Michelle Olsen writes for the National Law Journal’s Supreme Court section and publishes Appellate Daily, a Twitter feed and blog about federal appeals. She can be reached at

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