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Historic cases: Supreme Court to rule on DOMA, Prop 8

Do states have the right to ban same-sex marriage? The nation's highest court may decide.
/ Source: The Last Word

Do states have the right to ban same-sex marriage? The nation's highest court may decide.

The Supreme Court announced Friday afternoon it will hear its first same-sex marriage cases.

As NBC’s Pete Williams reports, the Supreme Court has granted review of the Defense of Marriage Act and California’s Proposition 8, the voter-approved ban on same-sex marriage in the state.

“The surprise here is Prop 8,” Williams said on MSNBC shortly after the Court’s announcement. He explained that the Court’s decision on Prop 8 would affect California directly because the issue there was that the state gave same-sex couples the right to marry, and then overturned it with a proposition after the fact. However, if the Court decides to dive fully into the issue, it may decide whether or not a state in general had the ability to ban same-sex marriage.

“If you’re a conservative member of the Court and you think Prop 8 was wrongly decided, I’d be surprised you’d grant that case unless you thought the appeals court was wrong,” Williams added. ”It takes four votes to grant [review], it takes five to win. You don’t want to grant it unless you think your side has a chance of winning.”

On the issue of the DOMA review, the Court will hear Windsor v. United States. A federal appeals court in New York ruled on this case in October and found DOMA unconstitutional.

SCOTUSblog’s Lyle Denniston noted in SCOTUSblog’s live chat on Friday afternoon:

The case has agreed to consider the merits issue of the constitutionality of DOMA Section 3, it has also given itself the option of not deciding that issue. If it finds that neither the Executive Branch could bring its appeal, and that BLAG [Bipartisan Legal Advisory Group] lacked Art. III standing, then presumably both of those petitions would be denied. At that point, then, the Court might have to consider whether it wants to hear another DOMA case. But that probably would not be done in time for this term’s close.

Williams said the justices would most likely hear arguments in March, with a decision coming most likely in June.