Decision, expected in June, could extend practice to all 50 states.
WASHINGTON (AP) — Attorney General Eric Holder said the Obama administration would urge the Supreme Court, which announced Friday it would take up another same-sex "marriage" case, "to make marriage equality a reality for all Americans."
Setting the stage for a potentially historic ruling, the Supreme Court announced it will decide whether same-sex couples have a right to "marry" everywhere in America under the Constitution.
The justices will take up gay-rights cases that ask them to overturn bans in four states and declare for the entire nation that people can "marry" the partners of their choice, regardless of gender. The cases will be argued in April, and a decision is expected by late June.
Proponents of same-sex "marriage" said they expect the court to settle the matter once and for all with a decision that invalidates state provisions that define marriage as between a man and a woman.
On the other side, advocates for traditional marriage want the court to let the political process play out, rather than have judges order states to allow same-sex couples to marry.
"The people of every state should remain free to affirm marriage as the union of a man and a woman in their laws," said Austin R. Nimocks, senior counsel for Alliance Defending Freedom.
Brian S. Brown of the National Organization for Marriage said in a statement: "We are very pleased that the Supreme Court has chosen to review the 6th Circuit’s ruling that found in favor of voters’ right to define marriage as the union of one man and one woman. It is time for the 50 million Americans who stood for marriage in 30 states to have their day in court. We are confident that the Supreme Court has chosen the 6th Circuit case in order to affirm the finding of the Appeals court, just as it did in the cases of Windsor v. United States and Sebelius v. Hobby Lobby. We will be watching this case closely and anticipate an eventual victory for the democratic process, religious liberty, and the cherished institution of marriage which forms the very bedrock of our society."
William B. May, president of Catholics for the Common Good, looked forward to a positive outcome for traditional marriage.
"This is the day we have been waiting for — when the US Supreme Court will finally give the voters their day in court about their right to preserve marriage between a man and a woman as the only civil institution that specifically unites kids with their moms and dads," May said in a statement. “While activist judges around the country have been overruling the will of the voters on marriage, the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals found voters and legislators do indeed have the right to define marriage as between a man and a woman at the state level. We are confident that reason will prevail within the U.S. Supreme Court, as it did before the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals.”
Currently, same-sex couples can "marry" in 36 states and the District of Columbia. That number is nearly double what it was just three months ago, when the justices initially declined to hear gay marriage appeals from five states seeking to preserve their bans on same-sex marriage. The effect of the court’s action in October was to make final several pro-gay-rights rulings in the lower courts.
Now there are just 14 states in which same-sex couples cannot wed. The court’s decision to get involved is another marker of the rapid change that has redefined societal norms in the space of a generation.
The court will be weighing in on major gay rights issues for the fourth time in in 27 years. In the first of those, in 1986, the court upheld Georgia’s anti-sodomy law in a devastating defeat for gay rights advocates.