Same-sex couples could have the right to marry throughout the United States within a year, estimates a leading litigator in marriage equality cases.
That prediction comes in a Vox interview with Paul Smith of the law firm Jenner and Block, who was part of the team that successfully challenged the federal Defense of Marriage Act in the U.S. Supreme Court last year.
As state bans on same-sex marriage continue being struck down and the decisions appealed, the two cases that are farthest along in the appeals process as those from Utah and Virginia. In the best-case scenario, Smith says, appeals courts could decide those this summer and whichever side loses would appeal to the Supreme Court, which would issue a decision in the summer of 2015. Even in a slower scenario, with procedural hang-ups, Smith estimates a Supreme Court decision would come no later than 2016. And he expects the decision would be on the side of marriage equality.
“I think that most observers think there are five [of nine] votes for the pro-equality side — the same five that felt the Defense of Marriage Act was unconstitutional,” he told Vox.
There’s another, less likely scenario, in which all appeals courts would rule in favor of marriage equality and the Supreme Court would decline to take up any of the cases, letting the appeals courts’ rulings stand. But Smith thinks the high court wants to be involved.
“My personal view is that the Supreme Court wants to be the one to decide this issue, not the lower courts,” he said. “So the Supreme Court will probably take it.”
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