US: Supreme Court ruling on equal marriage cases expected imminently

Illustrated rainbow pride flag on a pink background.

The US Supreme Court is expected to rule on two cases surround equal marriage, in the next three weeks, potentially making a groundbreaking ruling for equal marriage in the state of California, and the whole of the US.

The court is to rule on the constitutionality of California’s Proposition 8, which bans equal marriage in the state, and the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), which federally bans equal marriage.

On the first day of hearings in March, the court heard arguments around Proposition 8, the state of California’s ban on equal marriage. Then the justices questioned the meaning of marriage, and challenged arguments for the ban. 

On the second day of hearings, several of the Supreme Court Justices raised concerns around DOMA, and some took that as a sign that there may be a narrow majority who will strike it down.

It is expected that the court will either overturn the bans, or it will refuse to rule in the cases, which would mean they would remain intact.

Reports suggest that officials in California had begun to prepare for the resumption of same-sex ceremonies, in case the Supreme Court rules to strike down Proposition 8.

If Proposition 8 is upheld by the court it is expected that supporters of equal marriage will attempt to put a question on the ballot in 2014 or 2016, to restore same-sex marriage.

If the Supreme Court Justices strike down the Defense of Marriage Act as unconstitutional, benefits would be available to married same-sex couples in California, and the nine states and Washington DC, which currently allow same-sex marriage. Equal marriage becomes legal in Rhode Island, Delaware and Minnesota, in the summer.

The Supreme Court does not announce its decision date ahead of time, so its ruling could come any time in the next three weeks. Rulings are traditionally made on Mondays, but can also be handed down later in the week.