The US Supreme Court’s announcement this week that it will take up two key same-sex marriage cases sets the scene now for several months of legal speculation and deeply-felt advocacy.
The speculation has to do with how the high court will act once it begins considering the issue, likely next spring. Who will it hear arguments from? Will it come down strongly and clearly for or against gay marriage? Or will it rule narrowly, sending the cases back to lower courts for further deliberation or perhaps simply letting those courts’ rulings stand?
In other words, same-sex marriage may be the “defining civil rights issue of our time,” as high-profile attorneys Theodore Olson and David Boies argue in their case against California’s Proposition 8 ban on gay marriage. But it will not necessarily be settled broadly for all Americans and for all time as a constitutional issue.