The U.S. Supreme Court is preparing for a meeting behind closed doors on Friday that will determine how they will proceed with a gay marriage debate that is in the forefront of political discourse, especially after several states voted to legalize the union.
"They're going to take one or more of the cases" on the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), said David Boies, a lead attorney for two California couples challenging Proposition 8, which placed a ban on gay marriage. "The more complicated question is what they do with our case."
"There is sort of a circle at the core of all of this, which is DOMA, and from there it comes down to how broad to make the circle," added Jane Schachter, a Stanford University law professor. "One thing to think about is how much of the overarching issues do they want to get into."
The 1996 Defense of Marriage Act, signed by former President Bill Clinton, bars federal benefits to same-sex couples. The 2008 Proposition 8 bill in California was backed by the majority of voters, but the Supreme Court has been expected to take up the case and decide a course of action for some time now.
Traditional marriage advocates were dealt a blow on Election Day in November when four U.S. states voted by referendum to legalize same-sex marriage. Previously, the seven states that have permitted gay marriage all reached the decision through the court or legislative process.
Whether California will also recognize same-sex marriage remains to be seen, and much will depend on what action the Supreme Court decides to take, Mercury News has reported – noting that the highest judicial court in the country can either ban or legalize the practice nationwide, or continue the current state-by-state voter process that allows the people to decide on the issue.
The decision on which cases the justices will take up will be revealed during the first week of December, which means that arguments would begin by spring time, and by June, there will likely be a final ruling on same-sex marriage.
President Barack Obama has expressed his support for gay marriage and has said that his administration will not defend DOMA. Two federal appeals courts in San Francisco have also ruled DOMA unconstitutional, but traditional marriage advocates hope that despite these influences, the Supreme Court will be able to make its own decision on the law initially enacted by Congress.