An openly gay cousin of Chief Justice John Roberts will be attending this week’s Supreme Court hearings regarding the cases against Proposition 8 (Prop 8) and the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA). Jean Podrasky, a 48-year-old accountant from San Francisco, will be sitting in a court section reserved for the family and friends of Chief Justice Roberts, who is aware of her sexuality. She will be sitting along with her partner of four years, who she intends to marry and hopes to introduce to Roberts this week.
Data released by the Pew Research Center asserts that the most common reason for people to change their views on same-sex marriage is because they know someone who is gay. Of respondents that had changed their views on same-sex marriage, 32% said they did so because they knew someone who was gay. Therefore, given other factors such as increased public support for same-sex marriage, more and more politicians coming out in support for gay marriage, compounded with his familial ties to someone who is openly gay, it seems more and more likely that Chief Justice Roberts will rule against Prop 8 and DOMA.
Sen. Rob Portman (R-Ohio) recently announced his support for gay marriage, citing his son’s sexuality as the reason for his change of heart. Clearly the idea of someone changing their mind because they knew someone who was gay is not unheard of. Additionally, Podrasky believes that her cousin will go in a “good direction” regarding the rulings for these cases, and believes the court will strike down Prop 8.
However, while the sexuality of his cousin will probably have an influence on Roberts’ decision, the increased public support for gay marriage will likely also play an important role in Roberts’ ruling.
Moreover, Roberts’ cousin has stated that even she doesn't know his opinions towards gay marriage, but feels that he will strike down Prop 8, leaving her free to marry her partner in California. Therefore, we cannot assume that by ruling against Prop 8 and DOMA that Roberts’ “changed his mind” on same-sex marriage.
Given the various factors that play into this case, both within Roberts’ personal life and within the general political atmosphere, it seems likely that Roberts’ will strike down Prop 8. However, we cannot assume that this is solely based on the fact that Roberts has an openly gay cousin, or that he changed his mind because of it. We cannot know any of that for sure until the ruling is released.