[author: Aaron Kase]
The Supreme Court announced on Friday that it would take up two cases which challenge the constitutionality of bans on LGBT marriage.
In one case, the court will rule on the Defense of Marriage Act, which bans federal recognition of same sex marriage, effectively blocking LGBT couples from tax benefits and other privileges of official partnership in the eyes of Uncle Sam.
New York resident Edith Windsor challenged DOMA as a violation of the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment to the Constitution, and the law was ruled unconstitutional by the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in October. DOMA was also found to be unconstitutional by the 1st Circuit earlier in the year.
If the high court follows suit and tosses the 1996 Clinton-era law, couples who are legally married in their states will be able to enjoy all the benefits of federal marriage recognition.
The second case SCOTUS will hear is over Proposition 8 in California, which created a constitutional amendment banning LGBT marriage in the state by defining marriage as between one man and one woman. A district court in 2010 overturned Proposition 8 and the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals followed suit in 2012. If the Supreme Court upholds the lower court decisions, it could mean an end to state bans nationwide.
The court rulings will come at a time when national opinion on gay marriage has been rapidly shifting. This November for the first time citizens passed same sex marriage laws in popular votes, with voters in Maine, Maryland and Washington approving ballot measures allowing the practice in their states, and Minnesota voters shooting down a provision that would have defined marriage as between one man and one woman in the state constitution.
Currently nine states plus Washington D.C. grant LGBT marriages.