The Supreme Court has again declined to say whether it will take up a same-sex marriage case, frustrating advocates who were eagerly anticipating an announcement.
After the high court met last Friday to discuss which cases to take up, speculation swirled that the justices could choose to hear one of several challenges to same-sex marriage bans. But when the court released orders from that conference on Monday morning, same-sex marriage did not get a mention.
The next opportunity comes on Friday, when the justices will again convene to discuss potential cases. Later in the morning on Monday, the Supreme Court added the same-sex marriage cases to its conference list for Friday.
Should the court decide to move forward with a same-sex marriage case, it will have several options. Perhaps the most high-profile case is a challenge to California’s Proposition 8, a voter initiative that banned gay marriage in the state. A lower court has already ruled that law unconstitutional, so if the Supreme Court does not act then Prop 8 will fall.
Other cases concern the Defense of Marriage Act, a law that prohibits the federal government from recognizing any union that is not between a man and a woman. That means married gay couples in states that have legalized same-sex marriage cannot enjoy a host of federal benefits.
The DOMA challenges before the court take on that denial of benefits. In one, Golinksi v. Office of Personnel Management, a federal employee named woman is suing the government because she cannot enroll her wife in a federal health insurance plan. In Windsor v. United States, 83-year-old Edith Windsor is suing because, after her wife Thea died, Thea’s estate faced hundreds of thousands of dollars in estate taxes that would not have applied to a heterosexual married couple.
Public opinion appears to be trending steadily toward acceptance of same-sex marriage. Earlier this year, President Obama became the first sitting U.S. president to endorse the right of gay couples to marry. On Election Day, voters either backed same-sex marriage or voted down gay marriage bans in four states; previously, Americans had voted against same-sex marriage more than 30 times it appeared on a ballot.