December 7, 2012
Supreme Court Will Enter Same-Sex Marriage Fray
Rulings on constitutionality of California's Proposition 8 and Defense of Marriage Act likely to come in March 2013.
After deferring the decision for nearly two weeks, the Court announced that it will review the constitutionality of both California's Proposition 8, a 2008 voter-approved ban on gay marriage, and the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA).
The Proposition 8 case appeals a lower court ruling that narrowly struck down the same-sex marriage ban. Earlier Friday, the New York Times reported that "the California case has the potential to establish a right to same-sex marriage, effectively striking down the bans on such marriages in 39 states. The Defense of Marriage Act case, no matter the result, would be more likely to let those laws stand."
The DOMA case asks the Court to decide whether or not Congress can limit federal benefits to legally married same-sex couples.
The decision has been long awaited by activists on both sides of the same-sex marriage issue. According to Lyle Denniston of SCOTUSBlog, "It is obvious now why the Court took as much time as it did: the selection process must have been rather challenging, and the composition of the final orders equally so. The Court, one might say in summary, has agreed to take up virtually all of the key issues about same-sex marriage, but has given itself a way to avoid final decisions on the merits issues."
Denniston also said that the Court likely will hear oral arguments in the marriage cases in the March sitting between March 18 and 27.
The Court's orders on marriage deal only with the Proposition 8 and DOMA petitions. The orders do not mention a recently filed case asking the Court to review a challenge to Nevada's same-sex marriage ban.
Same-sex marriage currently is legal in nine states, as well as five states that permit civil unions and three allowing domestic partnerships. Data from new polls also indicates that support for same-sex marriage is on the rise.
CT previously reported that Proposition 8 was likely headed to the Supreme Court and how evangelical public opinion on same-sex marriage has shifted. CT staff also weighed in on the issue in a July editorial.