Supreme Court Hears Arguments on Same-sex Couples Marriage Rights

The Supreme Court began hearing oral arguments today on marriage laws, which could lead to a wide array of outcomes, from essentially leaving in place the traditional marriage laws to proclaiming same-sex marriage is a fundamental right under the Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment of the United States Constitution.

According to the Pew Research Center‘s poll on public opinion of same-sex marriage in the United States, most recent polls show a slight majority support for the the legal recognition of same-sex marriage. Support for same-sex marriages has increased steadily for more than a decade. In August of 2010, a CNN poll became the first national poll to show majority support for same-sex marriage, with many subsequent polls following suit.

Tuesday’s arguments will be over California’s Proposition 8. The case, Hollingsworth v. Perry has its genesis in 2004 when a group of gay couples went to the San Francisco courthouse in search of marriage licenses. They were turned down by the city government, so they sued in state court, ultimately winning in the California Supreme Court. That court decision prompted supporters of 'traditional' marriage to sponsor a statewide ballot measure, Proposition 8, which defined marriage narrowly as a relationship between one man and one woman. Voters approved Proposition 8 in 2008. The Supreme Court could uphold Proposition 8 or, conversely, it could decide to not only strike it down, but to invalidate any state law that limits marriage to one man and one woman. In the alternative, the Supreme Court could issue a limited ruling that applies only to California and several other states which allow domestic partnerships that are almost identical to marriage in all but name.

In a separate oral argument, expected Wednesday, the court will hear oral arguments in a challenge to one section of the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act, which for purposes of federal regulations and benefits, defines marriage as “a legal union between one man and one woman as husband and wife.”

A decision from the Supreme Court is likely by the end of its term sometime in late June.

What do you think?