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Supreme Court Considers Wading Into Gay Marriage Debate

By    |   Tuesday, 06 Jan 2015 07:44 AM

The Supreme Court justices will meet on Friday to decide whether to accept five cases from states where judges have ruled against gay marriage. That would allow the court to clarify whether states have the power to restrict marriage to a man and a woman, The Washington Post reported.

Gay couples are hoping the Supreme Court will ultimately decide that same sex couples have a constitutional right to get married anywhere in the country.

Same sex marriage is now legally permitted in 36 states plus the District of Columbia. In most states where gays are allowed to marry that right has been conferred through litigation and not through changes in legislative statutes or popular referenda, the Post reported.

The latest state to allow same sex marriage is Florida, where the law goes into effect Tuesday. A federal judge in Tallahassee ruled the state's ban on gay marriage was unconstitutional. A county judge jumped the gun and conducted the state's first gay marriage ceremony Monday.

Even as the Supreme Court contemplates taking what could be a decisive step in shaping constitutional policy on gay marriage, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit, which covers Louisiana, Mississippi and Texas, will hear oral arguments Friday on three cases already in the legal  pipeline.

The prospect that the Supreme Court will agree to petitions to hear the gay marriage cases, combined with the change in Florida and the impending 5th Circuit hearing, represent "an incredible confluence of events," said Shannon Minter of the National Center for Lesbian Rights.

"It's the culmination of many years of work," she told the Post.

A divergence in lower court rulings puts pressure on the Supreme Court to intervene.
The U.S. Court of Appeals for the 6th Circuit in Cincinnati determined that states had the power to decide their own marriage laws. Four other appeals courts have taken an opposite stance.

That leaves gay marriage legal in some states and unlawful in others.

In 2013, the Supreme Court ruled that the federal government had to provide Social Security and other benefits to gay couples in states where such unions were legal. It did not say there was a fundamental right to homosexual marriage.

Also that year, in a procedural ruling, the justices let stand a California court's decision that a 2008 ban on gay marriage passed by the state's voters, known as Proposition 8, was unconstitutional.

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The Supreme Court justices will meet on Friday to decide whether to accept five cases from states where judges have ruled against gay marriage. That would allow the court to clarify whether states have the power to restrict marriage to a man and a woman, The Washington Post reports.
supreme court, gay marriage, states, florida, circuit court
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2015-44-06
Tuesday, 06 Jan 2015 07:44 AM
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