The wait is over. At 10am ET this morning, the U.S. Supreme Court will announce its eagerly-anticipated decisions in a pair of cases dealing with the controversial issue of gay marriage. In Hollingworth v. Perry, the justices face the question of whether California’s voter initiative banning gay marriage, Proposition 8, violates the Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment. In United States v. Windsor, they consider the constitutionality of Section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act, which forbids the federal government from recognizing same-sex marriages that are legal on the state level.
Each case presents multiple possible outcomes. In addition to the constitutional questions presented, the justices must also tackle difficult procedural issues. In the California case, for instance, because state officials have conceded Prop. 8’s unconstitutionality and are no longer defending the law in court, that burden has fallen on a group of individuals involved in launching the original ballot initiative. The Supreme Court must therefore determine whether this group of initiative backers enjoys the legal standing to argue the case before the federal judiciary, or whether only state officials may preform that function. Should the justices rule that Prop. 8’s backers lack standing, the Court would not need to address the question of whether or not a ban on gay marriage violates the Constitution.
The DOMA case poses similar complications. Although the Obama administration initially defended the law in court, the president has since reconsidered, and now argues that because Section 3 of DOMA violates equal protection, the justice department will no longer mount a defense, though the federal government will continue to enforce the law. In practical terms, this means that while the government agrees with challenger Edith Windsor that DOMA violates her rights, that has not stopped the Obama administration from collecting nearly $400,000 in estate taxes from her that an opposite-sex spouse would not be forced to pay. Furthermore, the Court must also consider whether the Bipartisan Legal Advisory Group of the House of Representatives, or BLAG, possesses the legal standing the defend DOMA in place of the Justice Department.
As we enter the final countdown to these potentially historic rulings, here's a selection from Reason's coverage of the gay marriage cases.