1st of Landmark Gay Marriage Cases Hits SCOTUS Today

What to expect as high court considers Prop 8, DOMA
By Evann Gastaldo,  Newser Staff
Posted Mar 26, 2013 7:50 AM CDT
1st of Landmark Gay Marriage Cases Hits SCOTUS Today
In this photo taken Saturday, March 23, 2013, Jessica Skrebes of Washington reads while waiting in line with others outside of the US Supreme Court in Washington in anticipation of Tuesday's Supreme Court hearing on California's Proposition 8.   (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)

(Newser) – The Supreme Court hears two landmark gay rights cases this week, starting today. Here's what to expect:

  • What's on the docket for today? The court will consider California's voter-approved Prop 8, which banned same-sex marriage after the state Supreme Court allowed it, the AP reports. A federal district judge struck down Prop 8, but his decision was stayed until the Supreme Court can weigh in, the New York Times reports.
  • What's on deck for tomorrow? The court will consider the Defense of Marriage Act, which bars the federal government from recognizing gay marriages.
  • What outcomes could we see? A decision is not expected until late June. Worst-case scenario for gay rights activists, per Politico: The court upholds both Prop 8 and DOMA. But there are a raft of other possibilities in the Prop 8 case: The justices could make same-sex marriage legal in California, but only California, thus leaving the decision up to states; they could make it legal in California and the eight other states that currently allow civil unions or domestic partnerships for gay couples; or, as activists hope, they could strike down all state bans on gay marriage. There's also the slim possibility the court will decide Prop 8 supporters don't have the right to defend it in court (California's governor and attorney general have refused to defend it). If that happens, legal experts believe same-sex marriages would resume in the state, but ironing things out could involve a lower court.
  • How about the DOMA case? There are only two likely outcomes, SCOTUSblog reports: The court will decide it's unconstitutional or constitutional. We could see a split decision, with DOMA being struck down but Prop 8 being upheld.

  • Why is today historically noteworthy? Exactly 10 years ago, the Supreme Court heard a challenge to Texas' anti-sodomy statute in Lawrence v. Texas. Ultimately, the court prohibited states from criminalizing sex acts between consenting adults.
  • Which justices should we watch? Anthony Kennedy, for one—he wrote the Lawrence decision and is expected to be the swing member of the court; he also championed gay rights in another case, and experts believe he'll at least make a majority, with the four Democrat-appointed justices, in finding DOMA unconstitutional. On the GOP side, Chief Justice John Roberts has given some hints he could swing pro-gay marriage; Samuel Alito may as well. But Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas will almost certainly not. And the court's liberals aren't a sure bet when it comes to the Prop 8 case—Ruth Bader Ginsburg, for example, has said the court "moved too far too fast" by making abortion legal in Roe v. Wade, leading to public backlash.
  • How much did a seat to watch the court "cost"? About $6,000, the AP reports. Technically, of course, it's free to get in—but you have to line up, or pay someone else to do so. In this case, people started queuing Thursday, and at $36 to $50 per hour for a professional line-stander, that adds up. And no, you won't be able to catch the arguments on TV.
Click to see the latest senators backing gay marriage. (Read more US Supreme Court stories.)

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