Three Paths for the Supreme Court in Gay Marriage Cases – Law Blog – WSJ

It’s been a year full of news on gay marriage, including President Barack Obama’s statement that he personally favors allowing it and several state votes in November supporting it.

Now one of the biggest developments may be imminent. Supreme Court justices are discussing gay-marriage cases at their conference today and may announce as soon as this afternoon whether they will hear the cases.

The first dispute involves the 1996 federal Defense of Marriage Act, which denies federal recognition to same-sex marriages in states that have legalized the practice. Federal appeals courts in Massachusetts (May 2012) and New York (October 2012) struck down the federal law, saying it impermissibly discriminated against gays and lesbians.

Second, the Supreme Court has been asked to review California’s Proposition 8, passed by voters in 2008, which bars gay marriage in the state. The Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals struck down Proposition 8 in February, but on narrower grounds than gay-marriage proponents had hoped. The appeals court ruled 2-1 that California had improperly granted same-sex marriage rights and then taken them away.

What happens next? Here are three possible scenarios for the Supreme Court’s action Friday or Monday.

1)      The court declines to hear any of the gay-marriage cases. Perhaps the justices might feel that the issue is moving too quickly for them to weigh in now. Also there isn’t a split among appeals courts that needs to be resolved. If the justices go this route, the appellate court rulings favoring gay marriage would stand, but there would be no national precedent to guide other parts of the country.

2)      The court decides to hear a Defense of Marriage Act case but takes no action on Prop 8. The legal issues in the two disputes aren’t entirely the same. In particular, the DOMA issue has a states’ rights component: Those who want to strike down the federal law say Washington shouldn’t be allowed to interfere with a state’s decision to recognize a certain kind of marriage. Supporters of DOMA, which was passed by bipartisan majorities and signed by President Bill Clinton, say the federal government has a legitimate interest in upholding the traditional definition of marriage.

3)      The court takes up both DOMA and Prop 8. This would pave the way for a broader landmark ruling by June 2013 on gay marriage. Even in this scenario, though, the justices could avoid taking a stand on whether gays have a constitutional right to marry, perhaps by endorsing the Ninth Circuit’s more limited reasoning.

via Three Paths for the Supreme Court in Gay Marriage Cases – Law Blog – WSJ.

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Supreme Court to consider whether to review gay marriage cases

Nov 30 (Reuters) – The nine justices of the U.S. Supreme Court are widely expected to decide in a private meeting on Friday to enter the legal fray raging over same-sex marriage.

An announcement to take a case could come as early as Friday afternoon or Monday morning.

Thirty-one of the 50 states have passed constitutional amendments banning gay marriage while Washington, D.C., and nine other states have legalized it, three of them on Election Day, Nov. 6.

At issue is the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act, or DOMA, passed by Congress, which only recognizes marriages between a man and a woman. Gay men and lesbians have specifically challenged a part of the law that prevents them from receiving federal benefits that heterosexual couples receive.

The high court is considering requests to review five cases that challenge the law as a violation of the equal protection provisions of the U.S. Constitution.

Most courts to address the issue, including federal appeals courts in Boston and New York, have found the law’s contested provision unconstitutional.

The Supreme Court is expected to take at least one of the challenges, as the court typically reviews lower-court decisions that invalidate a federal law.

Even in states where same-sex marriage is legal, the couples do not qualify for a host of federal benefits because of DOMA.

If the court accepts one of the cases, the oral arguments will likely take place in early 2013, with a ruling expected by the end of the court term in June.

If the court invalidates the law, states could still be free to legalize or deny same-sex marriages on their own terms.

Friday’s scheduled court conference is one of the Supreme Court’s regular weekly sessions at which it considers what new cases to add to the calendar.

The meetings, attended only by the justices, are held in a small conference room adjacent to the chambers of Chief Justice John Roberts.

The justices vote in order of seniority, and while it takes five of the nine for a majority decision in a dispute, it takes only four votes to add a case to the agenda and schedule oral arguments.

via Supreme Court to consider whether to review gay marriage cases.

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BREAKING NEWS: Supreme Court to decide on Prop 8/DOMA cases in late November | San Diego Gay and Lesbian News

WASHINGTON — The U.S. Supreme Court this morning indicated that it will consider whether to grant review in Hollingsworth v. Perry (formerly Perry v. Brown), the federal constitutional challenge to California’s Proposition 8.

The Perry case, along with several cases challenging the federal Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), will be considered at the justices’ private conference scheduled for Tuesday, Nov. 20.

Enacted in November 2008, Proposition 8 eliminated the fundamental freedom of gay and lesbian Californians to marry. DOMA, which was enacted by Congress in 1996, nullifies the marriages of gay and lesbian couples for all purposes of federal law.

“For far too long, gay and lesbian couples in California have been waiting to exercise the fundamental freedom to marry that the United States Constitution already tells them they have,” said Adam Umhoefer, executive director of the American Foundation for Equal Rights (AFER), the sole sponsor of the Perry case.

“With the distribution of our case for the Court’s consideration, we move one step closer to the day when the nation will be able to live up to the promise of liberty and equality enshrined in our Constitution, and all Americans will be able to marry the person they love.”

via BREAKING NEWS: Supreme Court to decide on Prop 8/DOMA cases in late November | San Diego Gay and Lesbian News.

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“Permitting same-sex couples to marry will not affect the number of opposite-sex couples who marry, divorce, cohabit, have children outside of marriage or otherwise affect the stability of opposite-sex marriages.”

Judge Vaughn Walker

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