On Friday, the Supreme Court finally agreed to decide once-and-for-all if gay marriage will become law across all 50 states, in a ruling that is expected to finally end the lower courts wrangling over one of the key civil rights issues of the century.
Back in November, the same-sex marriage movement took a big hit when the US Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit upheld gay marriage bans in four states. In that ruling, federal judge Jeffrey Sutton said that lawyers shouldn't implement social change, leaving hopeful gay couples in Ohio, Michigan, Tennessee and Kentucky understandably bummed.
But the decision meant the lower courts were split on the issue, forcing SCOTUS to step in to figure things out. Based on the Supreme Court's previous action on the marriage issue, including its 2013 rulings on California's Proposition 8 and the Defense of Marriage Act, most people expect the justices to rule in favor of establishing a constitutional right to gay marriage.
This is kind of the pattern, actually. The movement will take a huge hit from the courts that will ultimately help propel it forward. Back in October, the Supreme Court passed on the chance to hear appeals from lower court rulings that legalized gay marriage in five states. Both sides were bummed, mostly because they just wanted the justices to get it over with already. But it was hard for gay marriage activists to complain too much—thanks to the court's indecision, the number of states allowing gay marriage jumped from 19 to 24.
That number has since catapulted to 36, which means, right now, 70 percent of Americans live in a place where same-sex marriage is legal. And SCOTUS ducking out on the chance to weigh in last October gave everyone a little breathing room to let the idea of nationwide legalization percolate. Social opinions of gay marriage have changed more rapidly than on any other issue in America ever, so that extra six months could only help.
In the upcoming case, which will be argued in April, the court will consider two questions: Whether the 14 th Amendment—which guarantees equal protection under the Constitution—requires states to grant marriage licenses to gay couples, and whether it requires states to recognize those marriage licenses issued in other states. With the lower courts highly in favor of legalization, and Attorney General Holder just announcing he'll be filing a brief in favor of equality, gay marriage will most likely be a reality across the country in June. Cheers, queers.
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