US Supreme Court winter 2012 2
The U.S. Supreme Court building in Washington. Reuters

After months of speculation about which same-sex marriage case the U.S. Supreme Court might hear, the high court has announced that it will consider not one but two cases examining the prohibition of gay marriage.

One of the two cases is associated with California’s Proposition 8, which was passed in 2008 and reversed a previous state law by banning same-sex marriage. Opponents of the measure sued -- the attorneys arguing against Prop 8, David Boies and Ted Olson, were on opposite sides in the 2000 election-determining Bush v. Gore case before the Supreme Court -- and a federal appeals court struck down Prop 8 this year.

The other case is a challenge to the Defense of Marriage Act, or DOMA, a Clinton-era law that prohibits the government from recognizing same-sex relationships. That means gay couples who marry in states that recognize their unions are barred from receiving a host of federal benefits.

In the DOMA case the court will hear, Windsor v. United States, plaintiff Edith Windsor has sued because, after her spouse Thea Spyer died, Thea’s estate faced hundreds of thousands of dollars in estate taxes that would not have applied if the federal government had recognized Edith as Thea’s legal spouse.