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Supreme Court to rule on same-sex marriage this term


The U.S. Supreme Court will weigh the question of whether state-level bans on same-sex marriage violate the U.S. Constitution before the end of its current term.

The high court on Friday afternoon granted writs of certiorari to four lawsuits challenging the legality of anti-gay marriage laws in Ohio, Kentucky, Michigan, Ohio and Tennessee.

When oral arguments in the four cases commence — likely sometime this spring — the nine Supreme Court justices will be tasked with determining whether the 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution requires states to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples and recognize the validity of same-sex marriages legally sanctioned in other states, just as they do for opposite-sex couples.

In November, a divided three-judge panel of the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in favor of the states' rights to deny marriage rights and benefits for gay and lesbian couples, overturning previous lower court decisions that had partially or wholly struck down the marriage bans on constitutional grounds.

The 6th Circuit panel's ruling was the first by a federal appeals court to uphold statewide gay marriage prohibitions.

Prior to that ruling, state laws excluding same-sex couples from spousal rights, protections and benefits enjoyed by opposite-sex couples — including eligibility rights and privileges under state tax codes, insurance regulations and health care rules — had been uniformly struck down in four other federal appeals courts and more than two dozen U.S. District Courts.

A definitive ruling by the Supreme Court for the plaintiff-couples would likely result in the legalization of same-sex marriage in all 50 states, as well as bring an end to the dozens of similar lawsuits currently pending in state and federal courts.