SCOTUS to hear Prop 8 and Defense of Marriage Act cases

Dec 7, 2012

Same Sex Marriage Advocates Rally At San Francisco Court Hearing

(L-R) Same-sex couples Kate Baldridge, Elizabeth Chase, Joe Alfano and Frank Capley look on during a demonstration outside of the Phillip Burton Federal Building on in San Francisco, California. Credit: Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

The U.S. Supreme Court has decided to take on a case involving same-sex marriage rights for the first time, announcing today that it will rule on the constitutionality of California’s Proposition 8, as well as New Yorker Edie Windsor’s Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) case.

The court had 10 same-sex marriage cases to choose from — many analysts speculated that they might not address any of them, or would refrain from ruling on Prop 8 because of the broader implications the decision could have in the 39 states where same-sex marriage is banned. The court could still rule in a way that strikes down DOMA and/or Proposition 8 without addressing the broader legality of same-sex marriage itself. They have also left themselves an out — the option to dismiss either case if they determine a ruling would have no merit.

Prop 8 has had a tumultuous history since it was passed by California voters in 2008. Later, a federal judge struck down Proposition 8, saying it violated the constitution’s Equal Protection Clause. The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals upheld that decision, but under narrower grounds, saying the state could not take from gay couples a right that they had already been granted.

A Supreme Court ruling on Prop 8 could have a widespread impact on marriage equality nationwide, and a ruling on Windsor’s DOMA case could set a  precedent for similar cases in other states. How might the Supreme Court address marriage equality in the near future? Could changing popular opinions and state votes affect their decision?

Now that the U.S. Supreme Court has decided to hear the Prop 8 case, how should the justices rule?

Greg Stohr, Supreme Court reporter, Bloomberg News

Robin Tyler, executive director of the Equality Campaign, and was the first plaintiff in the lawsuit in 2004 that went to the Supreme Court arguing for same-sex marriage

Laura Brill, Partner with the law firm Kendall Brill Klieger; Former Supreme Court Law Clerk for the Honorable Ruth Bader Ginsburg; Brill’s pro bono work focuses on same-sex marriage rights

John Eastman, Professor of Law at Chapman University

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