Supreme Court to hear same-sex marriage cases

WASHINGTON, D.C. – The United States Supreme Court announced Friday afternoon that it would hear same-sex marriage cases from four states, making the way for a historic decision regarding the culturally polarizing issue.

Unlike previous states that had their same-sex marriage bans overturned by their respective appellate courts, the four state cases chosen by the Supreme Court – from Kentucky, Michigan, Ohio, and Tennessee – had their bans upheld by the lower court.

The Supreme court is likely to hear arguments in April, with a total of two-and-a-half-hours set aside for the hearings, according to the SCOTUSblog. A final ruling could be expected by late June.

Two specific questions to be considered by the Supreme Count include:

  • Does a state have the right to ban same-sex marriage?
  • Does a state have to recognize a same-sex marriage done in another state?

Same-sex marriage is legal in 36 states, with bans still active, yet court-challenged, in 14 other states.

The Supreme Court decided not to hear the first batch of same-sex marriage ban cases in October, which included Utah’s. The action ultimately upheld lower court rulings that the bans were unconstitutional and the affected states were ordered to start handing out marriage licenses to same-sex couples.

Utah was the first domino to fall in the cascade of same-sex marriage ban challenges when a federal judge ruled the state’s own ban, Amendment 3, unconstitutional on Dec. 20, 2013. Over 1,200 same-sex couples were married across the state before Supreme Court put a stay on the ruling. The stay was lifted in early October and the marriages resumed.

Though its own case was rejected, Fox13now reported that Utah may get involved in the new cases by filing an amicus curiae, or friend of the court, brief, in support of the marriage bans.

In response to the Supreme Court’s announcement it would hear the same-sex marriage cases, Equality Utah released the following statement:

Executive Director Troy Williams applauded the move and welcomed the opportunity for the nation’s highest court to affirm the freedom to marry for all loving couples. “This is a defining moment for gay Americans,” Williams said, “All gay and lesbian couples deserve the freedom to marry who they love. We look forward to the Supreme Court determining once and for all that LGBT Americans do enjoy equal protections under the law.”

Utah’s Sen. Orrin Hatch, who sits on the Senate’s Judiciary Committee, also weighed in on the issue:

Although I oppose discrimination based on sexual orientation, I have always believed that marriage is a sacred union between one man and one woman. In my view, the U.S. Constitution does not dictate a particular definition of marriage, so I believe such judgments are properly left to the citizens of each state. I hope the Supreme Court ultimately adheres to the original understanding of the Constitution and allows each state to define marriage for itself.

From the Utah Attorney General’s Office:

We are pleased that the Supreme Court of the United States has chosen to grant Certiorari, review briefs and hear arguments regarding a state’s authority to define marriage and that this process will provide all citizens with clarity and resolution on an issue of such importance.

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  • Hollitude January 16, 2015 at 6:11 pm

    Interesting. For the Supreme Court to have jurisdiction, marriage must be considered a civil right. Hence, the state would be violating a civil right by not allowing one to marry. If marriage is not defined as a civil right, than it is entirely up to the state to allow or ban same sex marriage. I am curious to see what happens.

    • Big Guy January 17, 2015 at 5:51 am

      The Supreme Court took the case because two different appeals courts issued contradictory rulings about state same sex marriage bans. One appeals court said no Federal civil right was involved, others did, hence the uncertainty as to whether a civil right is involved or not.

      Marriage laws were left entirely to the states for over 200 years since the Constitution does not address marriage and the 10th Amendment limits Federal authority to those powers delegated to it therein. Nonetheless, the Court likely will define same sex marriage as a civil right invoking the 14th Amendment’s equal protection clause as overriding the 10th in this case.

      Like abortion, this case inserts the courts into an issue where large segments of the population hold very strongly held beliefs on both sides of the issue. Same sex marriage at least does require an interpretation of conflicting Constitutional clauses as described above. Roe vs. Wade, which legalized abortion, was based on a “right to privacy” claim where nothing close to any such right reasonably can be read into the Constitution, a fact acknowledged in later years by many liberal legal scholars.

      • Mike January 17, 2015 at 8:43 am

        “Marriage laws were left entirely to the states for over 200 years…” Remember “Loving vs. Virginia” The Supreme Court ruled interracial marriage bans unconstitutional in 1967, overturning state law. Marriage is personal and no one else’s business. Equality is everyone’s business and responsibility.

        • Big Guy January 17, 2015 at 11:42 am

          I stand corrected. And the 1887 Federal Edmunds-Tucker Act prohibiting polygamy is an earlier example of Federal involvement in marriage. Interestingly, the more recent U.S. vs. Windsor Supreme Court decision re the Defense of Marriage Act in part reaffirmed the states’ traditional powers over family relations and was the basis for the Sixth Circuit Court’s decision to uphold state bans on same sex marriage. Looks like this circus will be resolved later this year.

        • Coprqwn January 17, 2015 at 12:17 pm

          Well said, Mike.

        • koolaid January 17, 2015 at 2:01 pm

          Remember when Utah outlawed interracial marriages? I wonder if that was a church thing?

  • UTCOWBOY January 16, 2015 at 9:06 pm

    I have better things to do with my time than to worry about who’s married to who. But then I’m not some religious bigot going around knocking on people’s doors and trying to shove my garbage down somebody’s throat.. Nor am I a member of the Catholic Church going around preaching anti gay as their priests are molesting little kids

    • Somerset January 16, 2015 at 9:45 pm

      Nope you’re neither of those things, but you are a country hick with nothing better to do than spout your own brand of hate against entire religions based on your false insinuations. Mormon missionaries force nothing on anyone and by and far the majority of Catholic Priests are good men. Guess you’re no better than those false claims you make about the religions you despise. Keep your hate and stick to discussing world issues with your cattle.

  • 375ultra January 17, 2015 at 8:39 am

    The fourteenth amendment doesn’t say anything about marriage, it gives everybody the same rights, a gay or straight person have the same right to marry. . (All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside. No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.) This is a states right issue.

    • 375ultra January 17, 2015 at 11:27 am

      A straight or gay person has the same right to marry somebody of the opposite sex. The fourteenth amendment doesn’t guarantee anybody special rights.

    • Hunter January 17, 2015 at 11:30 am

      The Supreme Court disagrees with you, and has many times over the last 150 years. Marriage has been established by the court to be a civil right via at least 6 different decisions, and SCOTUS has exerted its authority over the institution many times demonstrating this is not exclusively a states’ rights issue.

  • Big Guy January 17, 2015 at 11:05 am

    What the 14th Amendment’s “equal protection” clause means is not as black and white as some above seem to think; it requires interpretation. Two very obvious examples of less than “equal” protection are nonetheless supported by almost everyone: (1) prohibiting “underage” persons from driving, voting, serving in the military, working, and buying alcohol and cigarettes; and (2) using public toilets designated for the opposite sex (“Separate is not equal.” Supreme Court, Brown vs. Board of Education). Less than equal protection is “baked in” to the Constitution with age and place of birth requirements for Congress and the President. I expect there are other examples.

    Somewhat less obvious but still “less than equal” are prohibitions on marrying close relatives (brothers, sisters, cousins, etc.). Polygamy and polyandry between consenting adults (not children) are illegal. Anyone making the blanket statement, as several above have, that people should have the right to marry whomever they choose, implicitly oppose these laws as well.

  • The Rest Of The Story January 18, 2015 at 12:49 am

    There must be compelling reason–backed by sound evidence–to discriminate. To date, the opposition has not been able to produce any such compelling evidence, other than they think it’s “icky”. Sorry, haters, that’s not enough of a reason. Pack up your … and go back home.
    Ed. ellipsis.

  • Keith Pullman January 18, 2015 at 9:08 am

    There is no good reason to deny that we must keep evolving until an adult, regardless of gender, sexual orientation, monogamy or polyamory, race, or religion is free to share love, sex, residence, and marriage (and any of those without the others) with any and all consenting adults. Polyamory, polygamy, open relationships are not for everyone, but they are for some. The limited same-gender freedom to marry is a great and historic step, but is NOT full marriage equality, because equality “just for some” is not equality. Let’s stand up for EVERY ADULT’S right to marry the person(s) they love. Get on the right side of history!

    • Somerset January 18, 2015 at 5:07 pm

      @Keith, we’re working on getting that dang definition of “consenting” changed as we speak. It needs to evolve as well. I don’t like it as it stands today.

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