This is WEEKEND EDITION from NPR News. I'm Scott Simon and we'll have to wait until June to learn what the U.S. Supreme Court has decided on the two gay marriage cases before it. But this week, the justices heard oral arguments and they gave perhaps some hints of their thinking. One case concerns the constitutionality of California's ban on gay marriage, the other case is a challenge to what's called DOMA, the Defense of Marriage Act.
We're joined now by NPR legal affairs correspondent, Nina Totenberg. Thanks for being with us.
With the Supreme Court hearing arguments this week on same-sex marriage, I'd like to point out a parallel evolution in what I see as a Hollywood mini-genre: films in which gay characters are either taken to court or seek redress in court for issues involving their sexuality.
Arguably the most famous question ever asked in a courtroom about a line of poetry — "What is the love that dare not speak its name?" — was originally put to playwright Oscar Wilde in 1894 by a British prosecutor. It was an attempt to trap Wilde into admitting to then-illegal homosexual conduct.
It wasn't so long ago that a handful of Vermont legislators in a shabby Statehouse committee room struggled over what to call their proposal to give marriage-like rights to the state's gay and lesbian residents.
Democrat Howard Dean, governor at the time, had already made clear he'd veto any legislation labeled "marriage." Suggestions like "domestic partner relationship" were too clunky; "civil accord," they decided, evoked a car model.