High Court to Take Up Same-Sex Marriage; California Ban Has Been Rejected by Appeals Court on Narrow Grounds; Justices Also Will Consider Benefit Limits to Gay Couples under U.S. Law

By Sherman, Mark | St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO), December 8, 2012 | Go to article overview

High Court to Take Up Same-Sex Marriage; California Ban Has Been Rejected by Appeals Court on Narrow Grounds; Justices Also Will Consider Benefit Limits to Gay Couples under U.S. Law


Sherman, Mark, St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)


WASHINGTON The Supreme Court will take up Californias ban on same-sex marriage, a case that could give the justices the chance to rule on whether gay Americans have the same constitutional right to marry as heterosexuals.

The justices said Friday that they will review a federal appeals court ruling that struck down the states gay marriage ban, though on narrow grounds. The San Francisco-based appeals court said the state could not take away the same-sex marriage right that had been granted by Californias Supreme Court.

The justices also will decide whether Congress can deprive legally married gay couples of federal benefits otherwise available to married people. A provision of the federal Defense of Marriage Act limits a range of health and pension benefits, as well as favorable tax treatment, to heterosexual couples.

The cases probably will be argued in March, with decisions expected by late June.

Gay marriage is legal, or will be soon, in nine states Connecticut, Iowa, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New York, Vermont, Washington and the District of Columbia. Federal courts in California have struck down the states constitutional ban on same-sex marriage, but that ruling has not taken effect while the issue is being appealed.

Voters in Maine, Maryland and Washington approved gay marriage earlier this month.

But 31 states have amended their constitutions to prohibit same- sex marriage. North Carolina was the most recent example in May. In Minnesota earlier this month, voters defeated a proposal to enshrine a ban on gay marriage in that states constitution.

The biggest potential issue before the justices comes in the dispute over Californias Proposition 8, the state constitutional ban on gay marriage that voters adopted in 2008 after the state Supreme Court ruled that gay Californians could marry. The case could allow the justices to decide whether the U. …

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