OVERNIGHT REGULATION: Key justices seem skeptical on right to gay marriage

Welcome to OVERNIGHT REGULATION, your daily rundown of news from Capitol Hill and beyond. It's Tuesday evening here in Washington and we've had an exciting day in court and on Capitol Hill. Here's what is happening:

 

THE BIG STORY

The Supreme Court appeared sharply divided Tuesday over whether to legalize gay marriage in the United States, as the justices wrestled with questions of discrimination and tradition in the most closely watched arguments of the term. 

As expected, the blockbuster case fractured the high court, with liberals on the bench voicing support for gay marriage and conservatives backing a series of state bans on the practice. Chief Justice John Roberts and Justice Anthony Kennedy, however, asked tough questions to lawyers for both sides, leaving uncertainty about where they would ultimately land. 

ADVERTISEMENT

And even some members of the courts' liberal wing questioned whether the matter be should be left to voters  -- rather than the court -- to decide.

Justice Stephen Breyer said heterosexual marriage has been the accepted law for thousands of years. 
 

"Suddenly you want nine people outside the ballot box to require states that don't want to do it to change what marriage is to include gay people," he said. "Why can't these states at least wait and see whether if in fact doing so in other states is or is not harmful to marriage?" he asked.

To date, roughly three dozen states and the District of Columbia allow same-sex marriage, while 13 states have adopted bans restricting marriage to unions between a man and a woman.

The case justices took up, Obergefell v. Hodges, stems from a 6th Circuit Court decision to uphold bans on gay marriage in Ohio, Tennessee, Michigan and Kentucky. The ruling put an end to the string of victories same-sex couples have had in challenging state bans in federal courts and ultimately pushed the high court to take up the issue it had been avoiding. 

Supporters of same-sex marriage argue that the high court's 2013 ruling in the United States v. Windsor could indicate how the justices will rule come June and legal experts were predicting a sweeping ruling in favor of the couples prior to Tuesday's arguments.

But the justices split questioning only highlighted the public's divide and strong emotions on both sides.

Just as Mary Bonauto, one of the lawyers arguing on behalf of the same-sex couples in the case, finished her opening arguments, a protestor stood and yelled, "If you support gay marriage then you will burn in hell for eternity. This is an abomination of God."

He was immediately taken down by security and pulled from the courtroom. http://bit.ly/1PTOOhs

 

ON TAP FOR WEDNESDAY

The Supreme Court will hear arguments in a case Wednesday on whether the drugs used to lethally inject death row inmates constitute cruel and unusual punishment prohibited under the 8th Amendment.  

The House Education and the Workforce Committee will hold a hearing of the Health, Employments, Labor and Pensions Subcommittee on "Examining Reforms to Modernize the Multiemployer Pension System." http://1.usa.gov/1JP5rXJ

The House Financial Services' Capital Markets and Government Sponsored Enterprise Subcommittee will hold a hearing on "Legislative Proposals to Enhance Capital Formation and Reduce Regulatory Burdens." http://1.usa.gov/1OB2NLV

The House Transportation and Infrastructure's Highways and Transit Subcommittee will hold a hearing on "The Future of Commercial Motor Vehicle Safety: Technology, Safety Initiatives, and the Role of Federal Regulation." http://1.usa.gov/1KmaH5Z

 

TOMORROW'S REGS TODAY

The Obama administration will publish 179 new regulations, proposed rules, notices and other administrative actions in Wednesday's edition of the Federal Register.

Here's what to watch for:

--The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCS) will update a list of restricted routes where trucks carrying hazardous materials are not allowed to drive.

The National Hazardous Materials Route Registry, last updated nearly a year ago, includes restricted roads and highways where trucks carrying hazardous materials are blocked from traveling on, as well as designated routes for these trucks.

The changes go into effect immediately. http://bit.ly/1FvxJYc

--The Department of State will propose new security measures for U.S. passport holders aimed at preventing fraud and misuse.

The State Department would eliminate the need to add visa pages by issuing larger passport books beginning in 2016. The government already gives U.S. citizens the option to select a passport with either 28 pages or 52 pages.

"The Next Generation Passport incorporates new security features designed to protect the integrity of U.S. passport books against fraud and misuse," the State Department writes. "An interagency working group determined that the addition of visa page inserts could reduce the effectiveness of these new security features." 

"To help mitigate the need for visa page inserts, the department began issuing the larger 52-page passport book in October 2014 to all overseas U.S. passport applicants at no extra cost," the agency added.

The public has 60 days to comment. http://bit.ly/1zlqnFP

--The Department of Labor will propose new black lung treatment regulations for coal miners.

The Labor Department's Office of Workers' Compensation Programs is considering revisions to the rules for processing claims and adjudications.

Coal mine operators found liable would be required to pay benefits for workers who contracted black lung during post-award modification proceedings. While parties would also be required to disclose all medical information related to a claim.

The public has 60 days to comment. http://bit.ly/1QG8ruJ

--The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) will issue new rules for international students studying in the U.S.

Immigration and Customs Enforcement, a division of DHS, will loosen the rules for families of international students so that their spouses and children can also study in the U.S.

"The rule also provides greater incentive for international students to study in the United States by permitting accompanying spouses and children...to enroll in study," the agency wrote.

The new rule goes into effect in 30 days. http://bit.ly/1KraoXv

 

NEWS RIGHT NOW

Gay marriage: The Supreme Court justices seemed torn on whether to legalize gay marriage during opening arguments Tuesday. http://bit.ly/1PTOOhs

Burn in hell: A protestor interrupted the Supreme Court on Tuesday, shouting, "If you support gay marriage, then you will burn in hell for eternity." http://bit.ly/1zalZJm

Rainbow: Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonPence: Chief Justice Roberts 'has been a disappointment to conservatives' Top federal official says more details coming on foreign election interference The Hill's Campaign Report: COVID-19 puts conventions in flux  MORE's presidential campaign logo Tuesday was rainbow-colored to support same-sex marriage. http://bit.ly/1HVvIGz

Minimum wage: Democrats are looking to raise the minimum wage for all workers to $12 an hour by 2020. http://bit.ly/1P3RBSQ

Chemical reform: Lawmakers say they've reached an agreement to reform the nation's decades-old toxic chemical laws. http://bit.ly/1FuCKA2

 

BY THE NUMBERS

$12: The level some Democrats want to raise the federal minimum wage to by 2020.

38 million: The number of workers who would receive raises under a $12 minimum wage.

 

QUOTE OF THE DAY

"Money talks in politics. I think the political perception about pot changes when lawmakers see serious investors getting into the legal cannabis industry," -- ArcView co-founder and CEO Troy Dayton. Check out The Hill Wednesday for our story about marijuana activists lobbying Congress.

 

We'll work to stay on top of these and other stories throughout the week, so check The Hill's Regulation page (http://thehill.com/regulation) early and often for the latest. And send any comments, complaints or regulatory news tips our way, tdevaney@thehill.com or lwheeler@thehill.com. And follow us at @timdevaney and@wheelerlydia.

Click here to sign up for the newsletter: http://bit.ly/1pc6tau