In one of the most widely anticipated developments of its current term, the United States Supreme Court said Friday that it will rule for the first time on same-sex marriage, looking specifically at California’s controversial Proposition 8 and the Defense of Marriage Act.
It represents the first time that the nation’s high court will have weighed in on the matter of gay marriage.
At the heart of the court’s deliberation will be the question of whether the federal government is bound to recognize the validity of same-sex marriages. The California case involves the basic question of whether states are obligated to permit marriages by gay couples.
California’s Proposition 8, which was passed in a voter referendum four years ago, outlawed same-sex marriage. But earlier this year, a federal appeals panel ruled that the measure violated the Constitution, which set the stage for the case to be heard by the Supreme Court.
The court is expected to rule on the topic in March.
The court will also look at the Defense of Marriage Act, which was signed by president Bill Clinton and bars federal benefits to legally married gay couples. Specifically, judges in a number of states have declared this provision unconstitutional because it denies gays and lesbians equal protection of the laws.
The issue of same-sex marriage has an increasingly important piece of the nation’s landscape. Indeed, President Obama spoke of his support of gay marriage during this year’s presidential campaign.
In addition, voters supported same-sex ballot initiatives in Maine, Maryland and Washington this year.
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