Political Animal


December 07, 2012 4:27 PM Supremes Take Up Marriage Equality Cases

By Ed Kilgore

Took a while, but it’s happening, per this report from The Hill’s Sam Baker (who beat SCOTUSBlog to the punch):

The Supreme Court announced Friday that it will hear a challenge to the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) — the federal law that defines marriage as a union between a man and a woman. The court also agreed to hear a lawsuit challenging California’s statewide ban on same-sex marriage.

These two cases are not as similar as the media reports will sometimes suggest:

Supporters of same-sex marriage are optimistic about the chances the court will strike down DOMA, making all marriages equal in the eyes of federal law. It would be an historic ruling, and one of the most significant civil-rights decisions in the court’s history.
The challenge to California’s Proposition 8 goes a step further, providing the court with an opening to declare that there is a constitutional right to same-sex marriage. The justices will consider whether the 14th Amendment bars California from enforcing a law that prevents same-sex couples from marrying.

And the results could differ as well:

Justice Anthony Kennedy is seen as likely to side with the court’s liberal bloc on DOMA, but his views on Proposition 8 are harder to predict.

Looks like oral arguments will be heard in the spring, with a decision likely in the summer.

Ed Kilgore is a contributing writer to the Washington Monthly. He is managing editor for The Democratic Strategist and a senior fellow at the Progressive Policy Institute. Find him on Twitter: @ed_kilgore.


  • cmdicely on December 07, 2012 4:44 PM:

    A couple things to note on these cases:
    1. The Court, in granting review, asked, in both cases, for parties to brief issues regarding standing in addition to the issues that were raised in the requests for review. This could be because there is some precedential value in explicitly affirming the kind of standing each case relies on (the issues are different between the two cases), but it could also be a way out of deciding one or both cases on the grounds most people are looking for (this seems especially likely in Hollingsworth v. Perry, the Prop. 8 case; there were a whole stack of DOMA cases queued up and it seems unlikely that they'd choose the one they did and then punt it on standing.)