Supreme Court Grants Prop 8, DOMA Cases

The Supreme Court will review California’s ban on same-sex marriage as well as portions of the Defense of Marriage Act.

SCOTUSBlog reported this afternoon that the court had accepted the Prop 8 case on the question of whether the 14th Amendment prevented the state from establishing a traditional definition of marriage. But it also will review whether the backers of the initiative, passed in 2008, have standing to pursue the case.

The court also agreed to review one of right cases challenging aspects of the Defense of Marriage Act. The U.S. vs. Edith Windsor case, as it is called, challenged Section 3 of DOMA, which restricts the federal government’s definition of marriage to that of a union between a man and a woman. The section of the law prevents same-sex married couples from receiving an array of federal benefits. But the court also will consider procedural questions after the Obama administration declined to defend the law and a group of House Republicans instead mounted their own defense. Those questions of standing could ultimately prevent the court from issuing a decision on the merits of same-sex marriage arguments.

“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,” wrote Lyle Denniston on SCOTUS Blog.

Oral argument in the case is expected next spring, perhaps in March.

“The moment we have been fighting for has finally arrived,” Adam Umhoefer, executive director of the American Foundation for Equal Rights, said in a statement. The org, backed by a group of entertainment and political activists, has been pursuing the federal challenge to Prop 8, with Ted Olson and David Boies leading their legal team.

This will mark the first time that the high court has weighed in on same-sex marriage since 1972, when it dismissed an appeal of a Minnesota Surpeme Court decision that marriage was limited to a man and a woman. But the Supreme Court’s order then was just one sentence: “The appeal is dismissed for want of a substantial federal question.”

The exact wording of the grant of the two cases is below:


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