With Prop 8, DOMA, and more potentially on its new docket, the Supreme Court has America waiting for an announcement on which cases it will hear about the future of gay marriage. Depending on what the nine justices decide about their case load, same-sex marriages in California could get the federal stamp of approval today. Here's what you need to know:
- Prop 8: The big thing here is if the Supreme Court decides to hear the case. If the justices don't take it up, they'll effectively be standing by the lower court's ruling, and gay men and women in California can start marrying, effective immediately, according to The New York Times. If the Court does choose to hear the Prop 8 case, then the justices will decide sometime early next year whether or not it violates the 14th amendment, with a ruling then expected by June.
- Diaz vs. Brewer (Arizona): Dana Liebleson has a good recap over at Mother Jones, and breaks down this case simply and succinctly:
If the Supreme Court does NOT decide to hear Diaz v. Brewer, unmarried same-sex couples employed by the state will continue to receive domestic-partner health insurance coverage while the lower case proceeds. If the Supreme Court does pick it up, the court will have to determine whether or not health coverage for these couples will stand while the Supreme Court case proceeds.
- Defense of Marriage Act: On October 18, the Second U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New York became the second federal court to rule DOMA unconstitutional because the court believed the federal definition of marriage between one man and one woman (what's known as Section 3) violates equal protection and is therefore unconstitutional. What you need to know here is that these cases don't really have anything to do with gay marriage and won't change if gay people can get married in a state, but rather whether Congress can pass a federal measure that treats same-sex couples who are married under state law differently than heterosexual couples. According to the SCOTUS blog's Amy Howe, there are eight petitions coming from Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New York, Rhode Island and Vermont which deal with these topics: federal benefits, estate tax, health benefits, and the 5th Amendment.
- If the SCOTUS does not decide to hear the DOMA petitions (according to the SCOTUS blog, it probably will: "Although the DOMA cases appear to be a sure bet for the Court’s review..."), then same-sex couples married in these states will be recognized as married by federal law.
- If the SCOTUS does take up the DOMA cases, it will have to decide whether or not Section 3 (one man and one woman...) is unconstitutional. If it finds that section unconstitutional, then you'd have the same result above.
We're all waiting for the announcement from the Court — they're meeting today and could make an announcement this afternoon or Monday morning, Reuters reports. But as Liebelson points out, Monday seems to be more likely:
The Supreme Court will most likely announce which cases it's going to take up on Monday, but we could hear as early as Friday. There is also a chance that the Supreme Court could delay making a decision, which is what happened on November 20.