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U.S. Supreme Court Hears Oral Arguments on California’s Same-Sex Marriage Ban

Today, the U.S. Supreme Court heard oral arguments regarding Proposition 8, California’s same-sex marriage ban. Same-sex marriage advocates and opponents have long awaited these oral arguments, and the justices’ questions to the attorneys arguing the case have left observers wondering if the Court’s ultimate opinion will reach the merits of the case at all.

The Court could rule in any number of different ways. The Court could reach the merits of the case and decide that, nationwide, all bans on same-sex marriage are unconstitutional. Or the Court could decide the opposite, that same-sex marriage is not a constitutional right. It is unlikely the Court will issue such a sweeping decision, however, as observers of today’s arguments speculate that there is no clear majority among the justices regarding the constitutionality of bans on same-sex marriage.

Alternatively, the Court might strike down Proposition 8 and also find that states cannot offer marriage-like institutions such as civil unions or domestic partnerships without offering marriage rights as well.

Finally, the Court might avoid reaching the merits of the case at all. Observers of today’s arguments reported the justices asked many questions regarding whether the proponents of Proposition 8 have standing to bring the case at all, i.e., whether they have the right to be heard in federal court. If the Court finds that the proponents do not have standing, then it could uphold the lower court ruling which overturned Proposition 8, and avoid ruling on the constitutionality of same-sex marriage. Such a decision would allow same-sex marriages to resume in California.

The Court is expected to issue its ruling in June.