Pioneer for same-sex marriage rights among lawyers for high court cases

Donald Verrilli Jr.
Donald Verrilli Jr.

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Verrilli is the most familiar face to the justices among the five lawyers they’ll hear from on Tuesday. He will follow Bonauto in support of a ruling forbidding states from limiting marriage to the union of a man and a woman.

Verrilli, 57, has spent nearly four years as President Barack Obama’s solicitor general, arguing a half-dozen or so cases at the Supreme Court each year.

Among them was the epic re-election campaign year fight over Obama’s health overhaul in 2012. The administration prevailed by a 5-4 vote on the basis of a secondary argument Verrilli made before the skeptical court.

He was on the losing end of last year’s fight over whether corporations can express religious objections to avoid paying for contraceptives for women covered by employer health plans.

Before joining the administration in 2009, Verrilli was a partner at the Washington firm of Jenner and Block. His Supreme Court work included advocating for the rights of death row inmates and representing telecommunications firms in cases with billions of dollars in the balance.

A graduate of Yale University and Columbia Law School, Verrilli was a law clerk for Supreme Court Justice William Brennan.

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Douglas Hallward-Driemeier
Douglas Hallward-Driemeier


Hallward-Driemeier cheerfully acknowledged that he would rather not have the court decide the issue he is going to argue – that states must recognize same-sex marriages performed elsewhere. That’s because he would rather have the justices settle the larger issue of the right to marry.

“We think there’s a fundamental right for same-sex couples to marry and we think that pretty much ends the question” about recognition, Hallward-Driemeier said on a conference call with reporters.

The Harvard Law School graduate is an experienced Supreme Court advocate with no previous ties to same-sex marriage cases. Tuesday’s argument will be his 16th at the high court.

Hallward-Driemeier, 48, heads the appellate practice at Boston-based Ropes and Gray. He spent several years at the Justice Department and before that was a law clerk to Judge Amalya Kearse of the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New York. He is a St. Louis-area native who graduated from DePauw University in Greencastle, Indiana.

He met his wife, the former Mary Hallward, when both were Rhodes Scholars at Oxford University in England. When they married, they combined their last names.

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Marriage News Watch:
April 27, 2015

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