A piece of unsolicited advice, you should read essays by Nora Ephron. Best known as the Academy-Award nominated screenwriter for rom coms like “When Harry Met Sally” and “Sleepless in Seattle,” Ephron writes awesome essays, and that’s why you should read them. If you read nothing else by Ephron, you should read, “Twenty-five Things People Have a Shocking Capacity to be Surprised By Over and Over Again.” If you can’t be bothered to read Ephron’s short and sweet 25-item list, then read this: “19. The reason it’s important for a Democrat to be president is the Supreme Court.” Ephron’s political bias aside, her words have a point, and from her point, I can make mine.
But before I arrive at that point, here are some facts to consider. The average age of retirement for Supreme Court justices is 78.7, according to a 2006 study conducted by the Harvard Journal of Law and Public Policy. Two of the three living, retired Supreme Court justices today include Sandra Day O’Conner, who left the bench at age 75, and David Souter, who did so at 69. Presently, four of the nine justices serving on the Supreme Court are over the age of 75.
One of those justices over 75-year-old is Ruth Bader Ginsburg. Seventy-nine-years-old, Ginsbery tends to vote with the liberal wing of the court. Another of those justices is Anthony Kennedy. Seventy-six years old, Kennedy is often the swing vote, the justice who provides the deciding vote in the court’s 5-4 decisions.
We cannot predict the future. We can’t know for sure when any justice will retire. But if history is any sort of guide, then our next president could have the ability to appoint a few new justices to the Supreme Court. If Romney were able to replace Ginsburg with a more conservative justice or were Obama able to fill Kennedy’s place with a liberal leaning replacement, those justices could have a huge impact on the Supreme Court’s decisions for generations.
And one of those decisions could be the constitutionality of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA). In 2009, the Gay and Lesbian Advocates and Defenders (GLAD) filed Gill, et al. v. Office of Personnel Management, et al. and in 2010, Glad filed Pederson et al. v. Office of Personnel Management, et al. Both of these cases challenge DOMA Section 3 and argue that federal benefits should be granted to same-sex couples who are legally married in their home states.
These cases have been tried in United States District and Appeals courts, and the Supreme Court has been asked to review them. Four Supreme Court justices must agree to hear a case before it can be tried, and the support of five justices is needed to win.
So if you were thinking about staying home on November 6, then think about this instead. When an issue comes to the court that you care about, that will affect the rest of your life, whom do you want sitting on the bench?