US: Supreme Court agrees to hear landmark same-sex marriage cases

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The US Supreme Court has agreed to take up California’s ban on same-sex marriage, a case that could give the justices the chance to rule on whether gay Americans have the same constitutional right to marry as heterosexuals.

On Friday evening it was announced the court will hear challenges to the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), which defines marriage as between a man and a woman, passed under President Bill Clinton in 1996, and California’s Proposition 8.

Proposition 8, a constitutional amendment, overturned a law passed in California to allow same-sex marriage.

The court will also decide whether the US Congress can deprive legally married gay couples of federal benefits otherwise available to married people.

Several lower district courts have already ruled that DOMA is unconstitutional.

A provision of DOMA limits a range of health and pension benefits, as well as favorable tax treatment, to heterosexual couples.

Friday’s announcement comes after a brief period of delay where the court failed to make a decision.

The justices will consider whether Prop 8 violates the Fourteenth Amendment to the US Constitution.