BY HUGO TORRES
The 93rd Annual Ames Moot Court Competition took place on November 18, 2004 in the Ames Courtroom with Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg presiding. The fictional case, Amy Annis v. The State of Ames, centered on the constitutionality of a state Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) prohibiting same-sex marriages. Petitioners, who were denied marriage licenses due to being same-sex couples, appealed the denial all the way up to the United States Supreme Court. Respondents included the fictional state of Ames, which passed the law, and the Ames Department of Health, which is tasked with administering marriage laws in the state of Ames.
The Atticus Finch Memorial Team represented the petitioners and consisted of Victor Delorenzo, Ryan Hecker, Marc Krickbaum, Paul Serritella, Sergiu Troie, and Lea Weems. Representing Ames was the Archibald Cox Memorial Team, which consisted of Ramzi Ajami, Jonathan Benloulou, Michael Bloch, Tom Lue, Sujit Raman, and Jamie Simpson. Due to the rules of the Ames competition, both teams consisted solely of 3Ls.
Along with Justice Ginsburg, the Honorable Richard A. Paez of the Ninth Circuit and the Honorable Reena Raggi of the Sixth Circuit grilled the oralists for each team on the merits of their case. Marc Krickbaum and Sergiu Troie, oralists for the petitioners, went first, with Krickbaum urging the court to remember that “the definition of marriage has changed over the years” and should change once more to include same-sex couples. Arguing that marriage is a fundamental right, Krickbaum made the case that “the state of Ames should respect and recognize this relationship.”
Justice Ginsburg questioned Krickbaum on whether the court was the proper venue to resolve the issue, wondering aloud “why should a court of un-elected officials make this decision?”
Krickbaum responded that marriage was a fundamental right and that “fundamental rights should not be put to a vote.”
Troie then went up to argue that the Ames DOMA was irrational and therefore unconstitutional. In response, Justice Paez suggested that “our tradition in this country is not on your side,” and mused that even if each of the distinct reasons for the DOMA were irrational on their own, taken together could they not add up to a rational basis that reflected the traditions of the United States?
“It is irrational to continue to ban same-sex couples from marriage simply because that is the way it has always been,” argued Troie in response.
After the petitioners concluded their arguments, oralists for the respondents, Sujit Raman and Tom Lue, went before the court to defend the DOMA. Raman began by arguing that marriage implicates “larger concerns” than simply the union of two people, including procreation.
Justice Raggi expressed skepticism, asking Raman “don’t we have to deal with the reality of what’s changed in that link between procreation and marriage?”
Raman responded that “marriage has never been simply about two people” but has always been connected to encouraging the raising of children and such a connection remained true today.
Justice Ginsburg in turn questioned whether such a basis meant that “it would be possible for the state to block infertile couples?”
Raman responded that so long as the state did not screen couples for infertility, it would remain possible that some who could not have children to receive the benefits of marriage, but that when it came to same-sex couples the state could be certain there would be no procreation.
Lue, in turn, argued that having child-rearing as a basis for marriage laws was a rational exercise of state power.
Raggi questioned Lue as to the fairness of the DOMA, asking “if Mary marries John she gets all the rights. If Sam marries John, he gets none. How is that rational?”
Lue responded that “whether DOMA furthers the state interest of child rearing” was the question at stake and that because the state certainly has a rational interest in the rearing of children the Ames DOMA should pass the rationality standard.
When arguments were concluded, both teams received a standing ovation from the packed audience. Marc Krickbaum received best oralist, with respondents receiving best brief.
“It is in the end a court’s obligation to decide,” said Justice Ginsburg prior to announcing the awards, and decide the court did, giving petitioners, the Archibald Cox Memorial Team, the award for best overall performance and enshrining their names into the annals of Ames Moot Court history.