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Marriage Equality

Supreme Court Justice Teases 'Opportunities' for Marriage Ruling

Supreme Court Justice Teases 'Opportunities' for Marriage Ruling


Will the Supreme Court finally hear a case that could resolve marriage equality nationwide? Some court-watchers say Justice Stephen Breyer's remarks this weekend indicate that possibility.

Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer indicated Sunday that the nation's highest court might rule on marriage equality yet, despite the court's refusal to hear cases out of five states last month.

Moderating a panel with Breyer and fellow Supreme Court Justice Elena Kagan at the Jewish Federations of North America's General Assembly at National Harbor, NPR's Nina Totenberg noted that the high court's October decision to let pro-equality rulings stand in five states has led to a rapidly shifting "status quo" regarding marriage equality nationwide. Politico reports that Totenberg inquired as to whether that shifting status quo would require the Supreme Court to weigh in on the issue soon.

"The status quo there changes, you know, so there are plenty of opportunities," Breyer replied.

Justice Kagan did not address Totenberg's question, reportedly earning laughter from the audience when she replied, "You don't really expect an answer on that, do you?"

Breyer and Kagan are both generally considered among the court's reliably liberal justices, and both voted in favor of equality in last year's landmark decision striking down the so-called Defense of Marriage Act in U.S. v. Windsor.

While it's impossible to predict what the Supreme Court will or won't do, Breyer's comments are being interpreted by some court-watchers as a hint that the court will take up a marriage equality case in the near future, especially in the wake of Thursday's decision from the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals -- which upheld bans on same-sex marriage in four states. That ruling became the first from a federal appellate court to find in favor of statewide marriage bans, going against a dozen other federal rulings since Windsor. The same-sex couples who filed those lawsuits in Michigan, Tennessee, Ohio, and Kentucky have already announced their plans to appeal the Sixth Circuit's decision directly to the Supreme Court.

Depending on the speed with which attorneys are able to prepare briefs for the high court, that Sixth Circuit appeal could appear on the Court's docket before the end of this term. If a majority of the nine justices on the Supreme Court agree to hear the case this term, a possibly sweeping decision regarding marriage equality would come down no later than the end of June 2015.

Advocate Magazine - KehlaniAdvocate Magazine - Gus Kenworthy

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