Bonus: Marriage Goes to Court

No matter where you stand on the issue of same-sex marriage, Tuesday's historic oral arguments at the Supreme Court represented the next step in what will be an unprecedented moment to define - or redefine - the institution of marriage.

On a special episode of DecodeDC, host Andrea Seabrook examines the most powerful moments from the hearing.

Episode 85: The Changing Face of Marriage

A little thing called marriage is about to have a big day in court. On Tuesday, the U.S. Supreme Court will hear arguments on state bans against same-sex marriage.

The court will consider two questions: First, does the Constitution require states to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples? Second, are states required to recognize same-sex marriages performed in other states where they are legal?

This is such a huge case that DecodeDC recently teamed up with the Scripps television station in Cincinnati, WCPO, for a multi-platform event to explore the changing face of marriage.

On this week’s DecodeDC podcast, we bring you highlights from that event, from the incredible history of marriage to the dramatic shifts in public opinion about same-sex couples to the legal arguments that are now before the U.S. Supreme Court.

Episode 84: Nerd Prom


When someone asks what the most important event in Washington is every year, you’d hope that the answer would involve a key piece of civic action or an instance of Americans making their voices heard.

In reality, D.C’s biggest event is an altogether different affair - a weeklong extravaganza of lavish parties where journalists rub shoulders with the very people they’re supposed to hold accountable. 

It all leads up to one night in particular, the White House Correspondents Association Dinner, or as it has come to be known within insider circles — Nerd Prom.

As a reporter for Politico, Patrick Gavin used to cover those insiders. Now,  after 10 years of covering the dinner and Washington politics he’s made a documentary about the correspondents dinner, “Nerd Prom: Inside Washington’s Wildest Week”.

On this week’s podcast, DecodeDC goes inside Nerd Prom with Gavin to figure out what the dinner is really for. Host Andrea Seabrook and producer Rachel Quester take you to the film’s premiere and speak with Gavin about the event he says Washington doesn’t want you to see.

The Changing Face of Marriage

How should we think about the institution of marriage?

It’s a question many Americans are asking themselves as the debate over legalizing and recognizing same-sex marriages intensifies.

For people on all sides of the issue, this month marks an important turning point as the Supreme Court is set to consider cases from Ohio, Kentucky, Tennessee and Michigan challenging a ban on same-sex marriage.

In “The Changing Face of Marriage,” DecodeDC will co-host an evening of conversation and consideration of the history, ideas and beliefs surrounding marriage with our Scripps colleagues at WCPO 9 On Your Side. 

Andrea Seabrook and Julie Dolan, host of The Now Cincinnati, will emcee the forum, which will explore how marriage has evolved over time -- in the courts and in the beliefs of people across the country.

Several experts will join the conversation:

  • Stephanie Coontz, professor of history and family studies at Evergreen State College in Olympia, Wash, and author of “Marriage, A History.”
  • Alphonse Gerhardstein, a civil rights lawyer from Cincinnati who represents the Ohio plaintiffs in the Supreme Court case.
  • Martin Cothran, senior policy analyst at the Family Foundation in Kentucky.
  • Dr. R. Albert Mohler Jr., president of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary.
  • Chris Seelbach, the first openly gay member of the Cincinnati City Council.

 "The Changing Face of Marriage" will be live streamed on Wednesday, April 15, at 7:00 PM EST.

To check out blog posts from DecodeDC and WCPO staffers and watch the live stream, go to

Episode 83: Terms of Surrender in the Culture War

Unless you’ve been trapped in a monastery over the past month, you’ve witnessed the fire and brimstone storms over so-called religious freedom laws in Indiana and Arkansas. Coverage of the push for these religious freedom laws tends to focus on how they have emerged as pushback against gay marriage.  

They are that, but the backstory is more complicated. These laws deserve some serious decoding and on this week’s podcast, we turn to Robert Jones, the director of the Public Religion Research Institute, for help.

Jones is a sociologist and a scholar of public attitudes about religion. At the Public Religion Research Institute, he and his colleagues conduct large polls to track changes in religious attitudes about public issues.

Jones traces this conflict of values at the center of ‘religious freedom laws’ back to the late 1970s, when the Christian right organized itself into a real political powerhouse.

Groups epitomized by Rev. Jerry Falwell’s Moral Majority pushed an aggressive agenda that was conservative, anti-abortion and anti-gay rights. They had enormous clout with the Republican Party and were a prominent voice in all the big national debates. 

But the political might of those groups has waned dramatically; their agenda has become less reaching and more defensive. 

For many religious conservatives, the Supreme Court has opened a path to new interpretations of existing religious freedom laws that fit their agenda.

“White protestant conservative Christians who had a hold on the country's moral center, feel that slipping away, and so this is a way of trying to find leverage ,” Jones says.

Legislators in Indiana and Arkansas argued the laws could protect religious business people from being sued if they chose not to serve at a gay wedding or provide health insurance coverage for women’s birth control.

At the same time, the percentage of white Protestant evangelicals in the American population has declined sharply – and the percentage of people with no religious affiliation has increased.  The country has come to accept changes, like gay marriage, that seemed revolutionary and outlandish just a decade ago.

This has left religious conservative searching for civic refuge, for some protection from all this change and for some political “wins.”

They almost got those wins in Indiana and Arkansas, but not quite.