After victories for proponents of same-sex marriage in Maine, Maryland and Washington, many Americans are now watching to see whether the United States Supreme Court will weigh in on the topic of gay unions.
The court is determining which same-sex marriage cases it might rule on in the current term, if any. The justices discussed the pending cases at their conference last week.
However, they made no decisions and will take up the discussion again at a meeting this Friday. It will be their last conference before the holiday recess.
The court has been asked to consider eight cases that center on the constitutionality of the Defense of Marriage Act, which 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 Supreme Court has a duty to rule when a major federal law has been struck down in one part of the nation. But it is not clear which case the court will decide.
Their deliberations are likely to go beyond the Defense of Marriage Act. The court is also likely to decide whether to rule on California's Proposition 8, which focuses on the broader issue as to whether gay couples have a constitutional right to marry.
The California measure was a 2008 ballot initiative that outlawed same-sex marriage. Since it was voted upon, it has been the centerpiece of a number of court decisions. Earlier this year, a federal appeals panel ruled that the measure violated the constitution, setting the stage for the case to be heard by the Supreme Court.
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