The U.S. Supreme Court on Friday agreed to take its first serious look at the issue of same-sex marriage by granting review of the federal Defense of Marriage act and Prop 8, California's voter-approved ban on same-sex marriage.
Timeline of Events: Prop 8
Proposition 8 has been left in effect during a lengthy appeals process after it was approved by California voters in 2008. The Defense of Marriage Act bars the federal government from recognizing the validity of same-sex marriages in states where they are legal under state law.
The cases might be argued in March with decisions expected by late June. A review of Prop 8 might allow the justices to determine whether the U.S. Constitution's guarantee of equal protection means the right to marriage cannot be limited to a man and woman.
Proponents of Prop 8, approved after the state Supreme Court ruled that same-sex Californians could marry, said they were "delighted" by the announcement.
"Every one of the numerous legal steps we have taken for the past four years has been in anticipation of this moment," said Andy Pugno, general counsel for ProtectMarriage.com. "Arguing this case before the Supreme Court finally gives us a chance at a fair hearing, something that hasn’t been afforded to the People since we began this fight.
"We are delighted that the nation’s highest court will decide whether to uphold the will of more than seven million Californians who voted to preserve the unique definition of marriage as only between one man and one woman."
Members of the West Hollywood City Council and other activists planned to conduct a news conference regarding the announcement at 2 p.m.
"Today’s decision by the U.S. Supreme Court to consider marriage equality takes our nation one step closer to realizing the American ideal of equal protection under the law for all people," California Attorney General Kamala Harris said.
The justices will consider a ruling by a San Francisco-based appeals court that struck down the same-sex marriage ban. The court ruled the state could not take away the same-sex marriage right that had been granted by the state Supreme Court prior to the 2008 election.
The other issue the high court will take on involves a provision of the Defense of Marriage Act, known by its acronym DOMA, which defines marriage as between a man and a woman for the purpose of deciding who can receive a range of federal benefits. Four federal district courts and two appeals courts struck down the provision.
Same-sex marriage is legal, or will be soon, in nine states -- Connecticut, Iowa, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New York, Vermont, Washington -- and the District of Columbia. Voters in Maine, Maryland and Washington approved same-sex marriage last month.
But 31 states have amended their constitutions to prohibit same-sex marriage. North Carolina was the most recent example in May. In Minnesota, voters defeated a proposal to enshrine a ban on same-sex marriage in that state's constitution.