U.S. Supreme Court will hear same-sex marriage cases

Posted by AzBlueMeanie:

The U.S. Supreme Court waited until late in the day to take advantage of the Friday news dump.

The U.S. Supreme Court announced Friday that it will consider whether California’s
ban on same-sex marriage (Prop. 8) is constitutional, HOLLINGSWORTH, DENNIS, ET AL. V. PERRY, KRISTIN M., ET AL. (12-144), and whether Congress may
withhold federal benefits from legally married same-sex couples (Section 3 of DOMA) by
defining marriage as only between a man and a woman, UNITED STATES V. WINDSOR, EDITH S., ET AL. (12-307). Supreme Court says it will hear same-sex marriage cases:

The court will hear arguments in the spring about about one of the
country’s most politically divisive social issues, with a decision by
June.

[According to SCOTUSblog: The arguments very likely will be March 25-27, and a
decision is very likely around June 27.]

The court will examine a key section of the 1996 Defense of Marriage
Act. The Obama administration announced in 2011 it was abandoning
defense of the law, and a string of lower courts has said it is
unconstitutional to deny federal benefits to same-sex couples who are
legally married in the states where they live while offering them to
opposite-sex married couples.

This marks the first time the
justices will hear arguments relating to same-sex marriage. Because the
DOMA case concerns couples who already are married under state law, the
case they selected would not require an answer to the broader
constitutional question of whether homosexuals must be allowed to marry.

The court also said it would review a lower court’s decision to
overturn Proposition 8, in which California voters in 2008 amended the
state’s constitution to ban same-sex marriage.

That case offers
the court a more direct path to deciding whether the fundamental
constitutional right to marry may be limited based on sexual
orientation. But because of the way the U.S. Court of Appeals for the
9th Circuit decided the case, such a finding is not required.

The two cases were picked from a batch of 10 petitions that brought the same-sex marriage issue to the court.

Some commentary from the SCOTUSblog live blog:

Prop. 8 is granted on the petition question —
whether 14th Am. bars Calif. from defining marriage in traditional way.
Plus an added question: Whether the backers of Prop.. 8 have standing
in the case under Art. III.

Our case page for Prop 8. is here: http://www.scotusblog.com/case-files/cases/hollingsworth-v-perry/

In Windsor, the government petition (12-307) is
the one granted. In addition to the petition question — whether Sec. 3
of DOMA violates equal protection under 5th Amendment, there are two
other questions: does the fact that government agreed with the 2d CA
decision deprive the Court of jurisdiction to hear and decide the case,
and whether BLAG (House GOP leaders) has Art. III standing in this case.

The Windsor (-307, there are two) case page is here: http://www.scotusblog.com/case-files/cases/windsor-v-united-states-2/

[I]t is clear that the Court has agreed to
consider the merits case in Prop. 8, because that is what the petition
presented as its question, but that it is also going to address whether
the proponents had a right to pursue their case. If the Court were to
find that the proponents did not have Art. III standing, that is the end
of the matter: there would be no review on the merits of Proposition 8,
or of the 9th CA decision striking it down.

The Court has agreed to consider the merits issue
of the constitutionality of DOMA Section 3, it has also given itself
the option of not deciding that issue. If it finds that neither the
Executive Branch could bring its appeal, and that BLAG lacked Art. III
standing, then presumably both of those petitions would be denied. At
that point, then, the Court might have to consider whether it wants to
hear another DOMA case. But that probably would not be done in time for
this term's close.

There is a good deal of complexity in the
marriage orders, but the bottom line is this: the Court has offered to
rule on Prop. 8 and on DOMA Section 3, but it also has given itself a
way not to decide either case. That probably depends upon how eager the
Justices are to get to the merits; if they are having trouble getting
to 5 on the merits, they may just opt out through one of the procedural
devices they have offered up as potentials.

BTW Although the Court is ruling on Prop. 8,
there is nothing in the order that would lift the 9th CA's stay. So
marriage licenses in Calif. will have to wait until this case is
decided.

 The
Court's two orders on the marriage cases do not include a word about two
other issues that lurk in the cases: is Baker v. Nelson still
controlling and thus requires dismissal of marriage pleas by gays and
lesbians, and what is the constitutional standard of review on gay
rights issues. But both almost certainly will be argued in the briefing
and at oral argument.

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.

[T]he Court's orders on marriage deal only with
two petitions — 12-144, Prop. 8, and 12-307, the US petition on DOMA.
No other petition is mentioned in the orders. That presumably means all
of the others will be on hold until the Court decides these cases.
That includes AZ's Section O case.

SCOTUSblog will have summaries and commentary later today.

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