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Marriage Equality

Justice Scalia Teases Crowd Over Marriage Equality Decision

Justice Scalia Teases Crowd Over Marriage Equality Decision


When asked about plans to take up a marriage case, the Supreme Court justice became as coy and cute as he possibly could muster.

At a speech before the University of Colorado this week, Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia teased onlookers about when the court will take up a marriage case.

"I know when," he told the crowd, when asked for a date. "But I'm not going to tell you." After the crowd became boisterous, he added, "soon, soon," and moved on.

The court is currently considering petitions from five different states, and could make a decision at some point in the next few weeks, or next few months. The vague timeline from the court has frozen litigation in some states, while lower courts wait for guidance from the justices.

Scalia's animosity toward LGBTs is hardly a secret ("I still think it's Catholic teaching that it's wrong," he told New York magazine), so he's probably eager to take up a case. That's particularly likely given that some of the lawsuits have cited his Lawrence dissent to justify overturning bans -- a citation of which he would certainly not approve.

Does Scalia actually know when the court will decide which cases to consider? Maybe, or maybe not. When the nine justices meet, it takes four votes to grant consideration to a case. If they haven't issued a decision yet, it probably means that they're still deciding how they'll vote. Or maybe they just share Scalia's enthusiasm for making the country squirm with anticipation.

"Soon" could mean next week, since the justices will meet on Friday to consider more cases.

Or "soon" could mean sometime in 2015. Last month, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg suggested that the court wanted to wait until they had a more controversial selection of cases on the docket, and that might not happen until the Fifth Circuit rules on cases in Louisiana and Texas sometime after November.

But even that prediction could be wrong. The Supreme Court might choose the cases to take up when observers least expect it, since nobody knows with certainty what criteria it will use.

Until those mysterious criteria are met, everyone from couples to lower courts to the Department of Justice will just have to wait in suspense, week after week. Only one man claims to know when a decision will actually arrive, and for now all that he'll reveal is that he wants you to know that he knows.

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Matt Baume