Picking up an opportunity that many people though was slipping away, the Supreme Court has agreed to hear not one, but two gay marriage cases. The justices will weigh in on California's contentious Prop. 8, with which a slim majority of that state's voters sought to toss away any advantage on tolerance and civil liberties the Golden State might have to offset its hideous tax and regulatory environment. The Supremes will also decide the fate of the Defense of Marriage Act, which apparently sought to preserve the institution by keeping it small and select for the purposes of federal recognition.

Says the Washington Post:

In addition to the questions about whether the laws are constitutional, the court has asked the parties to respond to questions about "standing," a constitutional limit on who can bring a case before the court because of a constitutional limit that courts only can hear actual "cases and controversies." If a party doesn't have standing to bring an appeal, the court cannot hear an appeal.

The specifics of the DOMA case before the court are particularly poignant, since they involve a woman, Edith Windsor, who was forced forced to pay more than $350,000 in estate taxes after her wife passed away. The money wouldn't have been owed by the survivor of a marriage recognized by the feds. That's a pretty effective rebuttal of those who think legal recognition is either unimportant or a step too far.

Both Prop. 8 and DOMA have been, rightfully, I believe, slapped down by lower courts. The Supreme Court will have the final say.

This issue has personal importance for my wife and me, because we have close gay and lesbian friends who suffer the consequences of legal exclusion of their relationships. I count myself among those who'd like to see the state out of marriage entirely, but failing that, treating same-sex relationships on an equal basis strikes me as a no-brainer.