Supreme Court to hear case on legality of gay marriage

Edith Windsor Photo: courtesy of Chester Higgins Jr./The New York Times
Edith WindsorPhoto: courtesy of Chester Higgins Jr./The New York Times
Edith Windsor
Photo: courtesy of Chester Higgins Jr./The New York Times

The Supreme Court agreed on Friday, Dec. 7 to hear a pair of cases challenging state and federal laws that define marriage as between a man and a woman.

The two cases in question originated in California and New York, the former dealing with the state’s constitutional ban on gay marriage and the latter addressing the denial of various benefits to legally married gay couples that are otherwise available to married heterosexual couples.

The court’s decision on the California case, Hollingsworth v. Perry, could resolve in several ways: it could keep the ban on same-sex marriage in place, allow same-sex marriage in California while not requiring it elsewhere or address the broader question of whether the Constitution requires all states to legalize same-sex marriage.

Reactions from gay marriage advocates have been mixed regarding the cases. Edith Windsor sued the United States government after the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act precluded the Internal Revenue Service from treating her as a surviving spouse. Windsor, 83, is thrilled about the court’s decision to hear her case (“Justices to Hear Two Challenges On Gay Marriage,” 12.07.2012).

Other supporters of same-sex marriage have expressed concern that the Supreme Court does not often rule progressively on hot-button social issues. Mary Bonauto, director of the Civil Rights Project at Gay and Lesbian Advocates and Defenders, told The Huffington Post, “Mindful of history, I can’t help but be concerned.” (“Supreme Court Gay Marriage Cases Spark Hope, Fear,” 12.09.2012)

A Supreme Court loss for gay marriage advocates would prevent same-sex marriages in the nation’s largest state, though the nine states where gay couples can or soon will be able to marry, plus the District of Columbia, would not be affected. The court’s decision on these cases is expected in June.

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