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SCOTUS Grants Cert. to Gay Marriage Cases: 2 Questions Presented

By Daniel Taylor, Esq. on January 16, 2015 4:38 PM

Following the Sixth Circuit's decision in November upholding gay marriage bans in Ohio, Kentucky, Michigan, and Tennessee, many felt it was a matter of "when" not "if" the Supreme Court would decide to tackle the issue of gay marriage again.

It turns out, the "when" is apparently now. The Court announced this morning it was granting cert. in four cases challenging the constitutionality of the bans in those four states. The decision in the case will likely have historic impact on the constitutionality of same-sex marriage across the country.

As the kids say: It's on.

Circuit Split Led to Review

At the beginning of its 2014 term, the Court surprised those who had expected gay marriage to be one of the 2014 term's big issues by punting on all five of the gay marriage cases before it.

Prior to the beginning of the term, however, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg had made it clear that a circuit split caused by a Sixth Circuit decision could provide the sense of "urgency" that the Court had apparently been lacking for considering a gay marriage appeal. In fitting Notorious RBG fashion, she was right.

Review Limited to 2 Issues

In granting review, the Court explicitly limited arguments in the consolidated case to two questions:

  • Does the Fourteenth Amendment require a state to license a marriage between two people of the same sex?
  • 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?

The Court allotted a total of 90 minutes for oral argument on the first question and a total of one hour for the second. Petitioners' briefs are due by February 27, with respondents' briefs due March 27. Arguments will be heard in April with a decision expected by June.

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