WASHINGTON (CBSDC/AP) — The Supreme Court is meeting to deliver opinions in two cases that could dramatically alter the rights of gay people across the United States.
The justices are expected to decide their first-ever cases about gay marriage Wednesday in their last session before the court’s summer break. Hours before the court was to issue its rulings, crowds began lining up outside the Supreme Court building in hopes of getting a seat inside the courtroom.
The issues before the court are California’s constitutional ban on same-sex marriage and the federal Defense of Marriage Act, which denies legally married gay Americans a range of tax, health and pension benefits otherwise available to married couples.
The broadest possible ruling would give gay Americans the same constitutional right to marry as heterosexuals. But several narrower paths also are available, including technical legal outcomes in which the court could end up saying very little about same-sex marriage.
If the court overturns California’s Proposition 8 or allows lower court rulings that struck down the ban to stand, it will take about a month for same-sex weddings to resume for the first time since 2008, San Francisco officials have said.
The high court rulings are arriving amid rapid change regarding gay marriage. The number of states permitting same-sex partners to wed has doubled from six to 12 in less than a year, with voter approval in three states in November, followed by legislative endorsement in three others in the spring.
At the same time, an effort to legalize gay marriage in Illinois stalled before the state’s legislative session ended last month. And 30 states have same-sex marriage bans enshrined in their constitutions.
Among those waiting outside for the opportunity to hear the justices read their opinions was Ian Holloway, 34, of Los Angeles, who said he and his partner were optimistic the court would strike down his state’s Proposition 8, which banned gay marriage in his state.