In a couple of weeks, the Supreme Court justices will convene a secret meeting — no aides, no secretaries, no others — as they gather for what is traditionally called the "long conference" to discuss private petitions from several circuits over gay marriage cases, ABC News
The protocol for their gathering says the panel's most junior member, now Justice Elena Kagan, must get up to answer knocks at the door.
The meeting will occur in advance of the court's fall term, set to begin Oct. 6, and will allow the justices to consider together petitions of cert from five states, which have arrived over the summer, on an issue that continues to divide courts, and one that both proponents and opponents say needs a definitive legal answer.
The justices do not, however, have to make a decision now. They can put that on hold and wait for more petitions to come in, or move forward on an issue that is certain to define their terms, as 31 states continue with bans on gay marriage and 19 say they are legal.
The high court struck down the congressional Defense of Marriage Act in 2013, which had restricted benefits to same-sex couples after it was signed into law by President Bill Clinton in 1996.
Advocates call it one of the nation's most important legal forays into civil rights, while opponents charge that altering what is viewed as a "traditional" definition of marriage is harmful to families and will create deep legal problems moving forward. Those religious groups opposing gay marriage laws and filing amicus briefs to the court include the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, the National Association of Evangelicals, and the Ethics & Religious Commission.
Utah and Indiana
are among the latest states to ask the Supreme Court to take the issue head on, the Associated Press noted. A federal judge from the 7th Circuit ruled as recently last week that the Hoosier ban violated the constitution.
Other cases before the court come from Virginia, Oklahoma and Wisconsin.
In Utah, the state's petition argues that voters there approved a gay-marriage ban and the will of citizens should be upheld, The Salt Lake Tribune
Wrote Gene C. Schaerr, a state-appointed attorney representing the Utah in its petition: "The question presented — whether the Fourteenth Amendment prohibits a state from defining or recognizing marriage only as the legal union between a man and a woman — is of immense national importance and warrants this court’s immediate review."
The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in California is set to review three state gay-marriage ban cases on Monday. These cases come from Hawaii, Nevada and Idaho, the Voice of America
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