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Chief Justice John Roberts' lesbian cousin and the future of gay marriage
When the Supreme Court debates same-sex marriage, will gay relatives make a difference?
Supreme Court justices, including John Roberts (left), at the presidential inauguration on Jan. 21.
Supreme Court justices, including John Roberts (left), at the presidential inauguration on Jan. 21. John Moore/Getty Images
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he Supreme Court is hearing arguments on two gay-marriage cases this week, with potentially life-changing consequences for millions of Americans. And for Chief Justice John Roberts, the impact of the rulings could be felt at the Thanksgiving dinner table. Roberts' openly gay cousin, Jean Podrasky, 48, will be sitting in the audience with her girlfriend, whom she hopes to marry.

As public opinion shifts increasingly in favor of same-sex marriage, how does Podrasky think her cousin will rule? "He is a smart man," Podrasky tells the Los Angeles Times. "He is a good man. I believe he sees where the tide is going."

Don't discount the significance of Roberts' family connection to the issue, say some supporters of gay marriage. Sen. Rob Portman, an Ohio Republican who was considered a potential running mate for Mitt Romney, dropped his opposition to same-sex marriage this month after his son, Will, announced that he was gay. "It can't be talked about enough, the power of coming out," says John Aravosis at America Blog. "It's easy for politicians to generalize their distaste for us, but it’s much harder when it's personal. It's hard to deny the humanity of someone you know and love."

"Unfortunately for those trying to read the tea leaves on the chief justice's gay marriage stance," says Margaret Hartmann at New York magazine, "he didn't invite his cousin to the courtroom." Roberts is aware Podrasky will be there, but she reserved the seats by emailing Roberts' sister, who put her in contact with the chief justice's secretary. And even Podrasky admits she has no idea what her cousin thinks about gay marriage.

Even analysts who are predicting a gay marriage victory don't think Podrasky's presence will have an impact on Roberts. Roberts' lesbian cousin says the chief justice sees which way the tide's going, but that doesn't mean he'll vote to uphold gay couples' constitutional rights, according to legal blogger Ann Althouse. "Even if he were a tide man, one could just as well stand back and let the tide go there on its own. Same-sex marriage will win whichever way the court goes. Its opponents can only lose."

Harold Maass is a contributing editor at TheWeek.com. He has been writing for The Week since the 2001 launch of the U.S. print edition. Harold has worked for a variety of news outlets, including The Miami HeraldFox News, and ABC News.

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