Supreme Court to hear same-sex marriage cases

At a conference on Friday, the Supreme Court decided to grant certiorari to four cases from the Sixth Circuit regarding the constitutionality of same-sex marriage bans in the states under that court's jurisdiction, SCOTUS Blog reports. In the order, the justices stated the two specific issues they want addressed during oral arguments, which will likely take place in April. These are:

1)Does the Fourteenth Amendment require a state to license a marriage between two people of the same sex?

2) Does the Fourteenth Amendment require a state to recognize a marriage between two people of the same sex when their marriage was lawfully licensed and performed out-of-state?

The cases are:

Bourke v. Beshear - a Kentucky case that deals with both of these issues,

DeBoer v. Snyder - a Michigan case that deals only with the first issue,

Obergefell v. Hodges - an Ohio case that deals only with the second issue, and

Tanco v. Haslam - a Tennessee case that deals only with the second issue.

SCOTUS Blog offers detailed coverage of these cases and their progress through the court system. In this post, publisher Tom Goldstein offers analysis of the strategy plaintiffs' lawyers undertook in getting the cases to the Court as quickly as possible and the potential repercussions for their actions. He analyzes the movement toward legalizing same-sex marriage as a whole, culminating in a likely decision from the high court in June, and the risks to those in those in favor of legalizing same-sex marriage in taking action too soon.

The Washington Post law blog, The Volokh Conspiracy has also provided significant coverage of this issue. Law professor and blog contributor Dale Carpenter provided analysis on Saturday about potential legal avenues the justices may take to resolve the issues in these cases and the impact this may have on future laws targeting same-sex couples. These include analyzing the same-sex marriage issue as an issue of sexual orientation discrimination, an issue of animus or an issue involving the fundamental right to marry. The court could also simply undertake a rational basis review of same-sex marriage bans.

The New York Times offered insight into how a decision from the Supreme Court may impact the political landscape, particularly with the 2016 presidential election looming. The playing field is still wide open for the republican party, which has typically sided with traditional marriage proponents, but with a growing shift in public opinion favoring the legalization of same-sex marriage, candidates must carefully consider how to address this issue. A decision from the Supreme Court could give republicans a pass on this, allowing them to say that the matter is settled and refocus the debate on other issues less thorny among constituents.

Photo credit, Mike Licht,