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Families of Supreme Court Justices are Like Others

March 18, 2013
Plain English Version

Nine justices sit on the U.S. Supreme Court: three women and six men. One is a black man and one is a Latina woman.

The justices have families. Among them there is marriage, divorce, adopted children and the never married.

Chief Justice John Roberts has two adopted children. Justice Clarence Thomas has custody of a grandnephew. Justice Thomas has a child from his first marriage. Justice Sonia Sotomayor is divorced. Justice Elana Kagan has never married.

One of the more important cases to come before the court will be about gay marriage. The question is whether individuals of the same sex have a constitutional right to marry.

How important will the justices’ own lives be in their thinking about this question?

Opponents of gay marriage say “children should be born to and raised by the mothers and fathers who brought them into the world.” This might not sit well with Justices Roberts and Thomas.

Observers say that court members cannot help but consider their own lives when they look at big social issues. But you cannot predict a ruling in a case simply by personal biographies.

Affirmative action programs helped Justices Thomas and Sotomayor. Justice Thomas does not approve of affirmative action programs. Justice Sotomayor has not yet voted on the question, but she has spoken in favor of affirmative action.

In the end, we like to think it is the strength of the argument that matters most.

The Christian Science Monitor

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