You probably know that the ACLU case seeking the freedom to marry, Wolf v. Walker, is scheduled to have oral arguments in Chicago on August 26 at the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals. But what does that mean, exactly? And when can we all start planning weddings?
The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit is a federal court with appellate jurisdiction over the courts in Illinois, Indiana, and Wisconsin. Basically, a three Judge panel will hear all four marriage cases (there is one coming out of Wisconsin, and three from Indiana) on the same day. At this point the cases are “consolidated” for argument and disposition. If the cases are decided together, the caption of the case will be Baskin v. Bogan rather than Wolf v. Walker, because the earlier filed case appears first.
The timeline was sped up, and all parties’ briefs, appendices, and replies are due August 11. The lawyers have been working around the clock on those briefs. We also expect allies, business, and faith leaders will sign on to the case by using “amicus briefs” to register their position with the Court.
At the oral argument on August 26, the lawyers for the Indiana and Wisconsin governments and the couples will get an equal amount of time to make their cases. These arguments are not like speeches, though. The main arguments are already in the briefs, so the oral argument is mostly a time for the judges to ask questions about those arguments. All of the oral arguments in the consolidated cases will probably last about 1 ½ hours.
Freedom to marry cases all over the country are moving quickly to the federal appeals courts. The 10th and 4th Circuits have already ruled in favor of the freedom to marry. There are cases with briefs or arguments scheduled in the 5th (TX), 6th (MI, OH, KY, and TN), 7th (WI and IN), and 9th (ID and NV) Circuits. Given how quickly the Seventh Circuit has moved so far, we might expect a decision by early October. Many experts think that the Supreme Court will weigh in on this issue in its coming term, and the Wisconsin case could be one of the cases that is considered. Assuming the Supreme Court takes one or more of these cases, it will make a decision by late June 2015. Nothing is guaranteed, but we are optimistic that marriage equality will prevail throughout the nation next summer.
On August 25th you can join us for "send off" events in Madison, Milwaukee, and Racine, where folks can come and see the plaintiffs off on their way to the court. Then they'll get on a big charter bus and we'll head to Chicago, to arrive there for a rally at 5:30pm across from the Courthouse. Visit http://www.wisconsinunites.org/ for the latest information!