Via ScotusBlog: The arguments very likely will be March 25-27, and a
decision is very likely around June 27.
Today the Supreme Court announced that they would resolve the question of whether part of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), is unconstitutional. That part, known as Section III, prevents the federal government from treating as married for the purpose of federal law same-sex couples who are legally married under state law For example, someone who is legally married to a person of the same sex cannot currently receive spousal Social Security benefits should his or her spouse die. Couples subject to such discrimination currently reside in Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Vermont, Connecticut, Iowa, Washington DC, New York and California, and soon in Washington State, Maryland and Maine.
Oral arguments in front of the Supreme Court are not yet scheduled, but will probably occur sometime in late winter or early spring, with a decision released by the end of June.
The Supreme Court Justices decided to hear the Windsor case from New York, while rejecting the consolidated Gill case from Massachusetts, likely because Justice Kagan was likely to have recused herself from hearing the Gill case because of her involvement with it as Solicitor General. A number of other cases questioning the constitutionality of DOMA, Section III were also submitted for consideration, such as Golinksi and Pedersen. As this is published the fate of those appeals is not clear.
Now, basically, we wait. True, briefs will be submitted on a schedule, scrutinized down to the last semicolon. And the hearing in front of the Justices will be a media circus. But the truth is that every argument has already been made, every angle considered, in the multitude of briefs filed in the plethora of cases that led up to this point, and in the vast quantity of expert and not-so-expert opinion written about the constitutional questions in blogs and scholarly journals over these last couple of years.
Many people believe it is basically up to Justice Kennedy to provide the swing vote one way or another, and what he decides may depend less on erudite arguments than on how he views his place in history.
12:18 PM PT: Breaking as well: OMG, they accepted the Prop 8 case. I assumed they would deny cert. From Scotusblog liveblog:
Prop. 8 is granted on the petition question -- whether 14th Am. bars Calif. from defining marriage in traditional way. Plus an added question: Whether the backers of Prop.. 8 have standing in the case under Art. III.
12:19 PM PT: More on Windsor/DOMA from Scotusblog:
Lyle: In Windsor, the government petition (12-307) is the one granted. In addition to the petition question -- whether Sec. 3 of DOMA violates equal protection under 5th Amendment, there are two other questions: does the fact that government agreed with the 2d CA decision deprive the Court of jurisdiction to hear and decide the case, and whether BLAG (House GOP leaders) has Art. III standing in this case.
12:22 PM PT: Scotusblog:
Trying to sort this all out, it is clear that the Court has agreed to consider the merits case in Prop. 8, because that is what the petition presented as its question, but that it is also going to address whether the proponents had a right to pursue their case. If the Court were to find that the proponents did not have Art. III standing, that is the end of the matter: there would be no review on the merits of Proposition 8, or of the 9th CA decision striking it down.
12:25 PM PT: Scotusblog:
Trying to sort out DOMA: The case has agreed to consider the merits issue of the constitutionality of DOMA Section 3, it has also given itself the option of not deciding that issue. If it finds that neither the Executive Branch could bring its appeal, and that BLAG lacked Art. III standing, then presumably both of those petitions would be denied. At that point, then, the Court might have to consider whether it wants to hear another DOMA case. But that probably would not be done in time for this term's close.
12:32 PM PT: Scotusblog
It is obvious now why the Court took as much time as it did: the selection process must have been rather challenging, and the compositon of the final orders equally so. The Court, one might say in summary, has agreed to take up virtually all of the key issues about same-sex marriage, but has given itself a way to avoid final decisions on the merits issues.
12:38 PM PT: Scotusblog
As we said earlier, the Court's orders on marriage deal only with two petitions -- 12-144, Prop. 8, and 12-307, the US petition on DOMA. No other petition is mentioned in the orders. That presumably means all of the others will be on hold until the Court decides these cases. That includes AZ's Section O case. Also, no surprise, there is nothing here on Nevada marriage; that case won't be ready for consideration for weeks, and, in fact, probably will just be held along with the others not acted upon today -- unless, outside chance, there might be a denial on Monday in some of them; I would not expect that.