Supreme Court Will Consider Two Gay Marriage Cases

PHOTO: This Sept. 6, 2011 file photo shows opponents of gay marriage outside a courthouse in San Francisco where the California Supreme Court was hearing arguments on Californias ban on same-sex marriage.

Eric Risberg, File/AP Photo

The Supreme Court announced Friday that it would take up two major cases that could result in landmark rulings on same-sex marriage in the United States.

The Court will take up California's ban on same-sex marriage. The case could give the justices a chance to decide whether gay Americans have the same constitutional right to marry as heterosexual couples.

The court will also hear one other marriage case, from New York, involving the Defense of Marriage Act and whether that law violates the idea of "equal protection" under the Fifth Amendment.

That law currently requires the federal government to deny marital benefits to gay and lesbian couples that are married in states that allow same-sex unions.

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The Supreme Court will consider several questions regarding California's Proposition 8 case, including, according to the SCOTUS blog, whether the 14th Amendment bars the state from defining marriage between one man and one woman.

A recent ABC News-Washington Post poll found that 51 percent of Americans now support gay marriage.

According to the blog, the justices may decide whether the proponents of Proposition 8 had a right to pursue their case at all. It could decide not to review Proposition 8 itself.

Something similar could happen with the DOMA case, according to the blog, meaning the justices could decide not to rule on the merits of the part of the law's constitutionality that they are set to consider.

The issuing of marriage licenses in California will have to wait until after the case is decided; there is nothing in the court's decision to consider the case that lifts the current ban on the licenses.

"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," reads the blog.

The court will likely hear the marriage cases in mid-March of next year.

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