Chief Justice John Roberts' first cousin, a lesbian, will attend Tuesday's oral arguments in the first gay marriage case to reach the Supreme Court. She will be in the seating section reserved for the justice's family and close friends.
Jean Podrasky, 48, told the Los Angeles Times that she hopes her first cousin will decide to overturn California's gay marriage ban, called Proposition 8, so that she can marry her longtime girlfriend. “He is a smart man,” Podrasky told the paper of the George W. Bush-appointed justice. “He is a good man. I believe he sees where the tide is going. I do trust him. I absolutely trust that he will go in a good direction.”
Podrasky said she arranged to get her seats through Roberts' sister. The courtroom seating for the historic case has been very much in demand, with supporters of gay marriage lining up as early as Friday afternoon to wait more than three days for a shot at entry. The court will hear arguments about whether Proposition 8 unfairly discriminates against same-sex couples. The justices could issue a sweeping ruling that would invalidate the dozens of state laws banning gay marriage around the country, though most legal experts think that's unlikely.
Roberts has aligned himself with the conservative wing of the court on most controversial cases, but his past involvement in a gay rights case has sparked speculation that he might be more open to same-sex marriage than the staunchly opposed Justices Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas.
While in private practice as an attorney, Roberts, a devout Catholic, gave pro-bono legal advice to gay activists who were challenging a Colorado state law that nullified all anti-discrimination statutes protecting gays and lesbians. Justice Anthony Kennedy, the court's conservative-leaning swing vote, ultimately wrote the opinion striking down that law in 1996, ruling that it appeared to be driven by hatred against a group of people and served no legitimate state purpose. That case, Romer v. Evans, became part of the basis for Kennedy's later opinion in 2003 striking down state sodomy laws as discriminatory against gay people.
Loyola Law Professor Doug NeJaime said he doesn't give too much weight to Roberts' involvement in the Colorado case, but he did say that he doubts Roberts, who is 58, shares the same outlook on gay rights as his three most conservative colleagues. "He was part of a culture of legal professionals who were increasingly sympathetic to their gay and lesbian colleagues and the cause of sexual orientation equality," NeJaime said of Roberts. "I don’t read Chief Justice Roberts as having the same opinon as Alito, Scalia and Thomas."