The U.S. Supreme Court will consider whether same-sex marriage bans in Kentucky and three other states are constitutional—and with a decision, the court could settle the same-sex marriage question for the nation.
The court announced Friday that it was consolidating same-sex marriage cases from Kentucky, Ohio, Tennessee and Michigan and would consider the cases in the current term.
The cases are consolidated and the petitions for writs of certiorari are granted limited to the following questions: 1) Does the Fourteenth Amendment require a state to license a marriage between two people of the same sex? 2) Does the Fourteenth Amendment require a state to recognize a marriage between two people of the same sex when their marriage was lawfully licensed and performed out-of-state?
Oral arguments could be held in April and a decision could come in June, a plaintiff’s attorney told WFPL last week.
At the moment, same-sex marriage is allowed in 35 states, including Indiana.
The Kentucky cases, Bourke v. Beshear and Love v. Beshear, are challenges to Kentucky’s constitutional same-sex marriage ban.
Last year, U.S. District Judge John Heyburn ordered the state to recognize marriages from other jurisdictions; he later ordered the state to allow for same-sex marriages to be performed in Kentucky. Heyburn’s orders said Kentucky’s same-sex marriage ban violated the equal protection clause in the 14th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.
Both orders were stayed pending an appeal. In the fall, the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals in Cincinnati reversed Heyburn’s orders and upheld Kentucky’s 2004 ban on same-sex marriage.
The 6th Circuit also upheld same-sex marriage bans in Ohio, Michigan and Tennessee. It’s the only federal appeals court to uphold state bans, leading legal observers to say that one of those states’ cases may be the one the Supreme Court uses to address the same-sex marriage question.
Both the plaintiffs and Gov. Steve Beshear, who appealed on behalf of the state, asked the Supreme Court to consider the case.
Update 5:10 p.m.: ‘Ultimate Case’
The Kentucky plaintiffs (well, their specifically their attorneys) will be busy preparing briefs in the coming months for the justices, as will their counterparts representing Gov. Steve Beshear. The same goes for attorneys from the three other states in the case. Oral arguments will happen in April, and the decision should come in June, said Joe Dunman, a Louisville attorney who is part of the plaintiffs team.
“This is the ultimate case,” Dunman said on Friday. “This is the case that should decide the question for all states in the country.”
Decisions will be made later for which attorneys from which state will do the arguing before the Supreme Court, he added.
For a little more, here’s NPR’s coverage of the Supreme Court’s decision Friday to consider the cases.
We’re awaiting a statement from Beshear. We’ll update this story when it’s sent.