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Same-Sex Marriage Returns to Supreme Court: 3 Things You Should Know

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By Daniel Taylor, Esq. on January 16, 2015 3:40 PM

The U.S. Supreme Court has agreed to hear arguments in a case that could decide whether the U.S. Constitution requires states to allow or recognize gay marriage.

The Court's announcement Friday comes after it declined to hear appeals of a ruling that legalized gay marriage in five states in October, reports USA Today. In this case, the petitioners are challenging a November ruling by the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, which upheld same-sex marriage bans in four states: Ohio, Michigan, Kentucky, and Tennessee.

What do you need to know about this potentially landmark Supreme Court case? Here are answers to three important questions:

  1. How did this case get here? The 6th Circuit ruling in November was contrary to decisions in other circuit courts that struck down state bans on gay marriage as unconstitutional. Although the Supreme Court generally gets to decide for itself what cases it will agree to hear, when conflicts arise in the law, such as the current split in federal appeals court decisions over gay marriage, the Court will often intervene in order to settle the law.
  2. What will the Supreme Court be deciding? In the Order List released earlier today, the Court announced it was granting certiorari -- the writ issued by the Court when justices decide to hear a case -- on two questions shared between the four cases consolidated by the Court. The first question is: Does the Fourth Amendment require a state to license a marriage between two people of the same sex? The second question is: Does the Fourteenth Amendment require a state to recognize a marriage between two people of the same sex when their marriage was lawfully licensed and performed out-of-state?
  3. How will this ruling affect gay marriage nationwide? Although the appeals being heard by the Court involve marriage bans in specific states, the Court's decision on the constitutionality of those bans would affect the laws in all 50 states. The Court's previous decision in United States v. Windsor was limited to the issue of federal recognition of same-sex marriage.

Arguments in the case will likely begin in April, with a decision expected in June before the end of the Supreme Court's current term.

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