As you no doubt have heard, the Supreme Court heard oral arguments today on the question of gay marriage (audio below and transcript here). At issue is California’s 2008 law banning gay marriage, Proposition 8. A lower court has struck down this law duly enacted by California voters, and now the question is whether or not SCOTUS will uphold the lower court or overturn it.
Oral Arguments at SCOTUS concerning Proposition 8
There are a number of possible outcomes to this case. Probably the least likely outcome is that SCOTUS would overturn the lower court and uphold the will of California’s voters to ban gay marriage. More likely is that SCOTUS would take an action that would in one way or another overturn Proposition 8. If that happens, the question is whether SCOTUS will rule narrowly (which would only legalize gay marriage in California) or broadly (which could overturn all laws across the country that ban gay marriage).
It’s notoriously difficult to predict how the Court will rule, but all the initial reports seems to indicate that at least one thing is clear. The Justices of the Supreme Court have no appetite to rule broadly on the issue in either direction. Pete Williams reports for NBC News that it’s “quite obvious” that SCOTUS is not prepared to issue any sweeping ruling about gay marriage. Williams says that both conservative and liberal justices expressed reluctance about doing anything that would have any effect outside California.
We won’t know for sure what the result is until SCOTUS releases its decision in June, but it looks like the Court may have shown its hand this morning. If these initial reports are accurate, it would mean that gay marriage would become legal in California and that all laws in other states banning gay marriage would remain in place.
If all of this pans out—and that’s a big “if”—that means that the debate over gay marriage will remain a state-by-state issue. So traditional marriage supporters would have their work cut out for them. They’ll have to make their case in every statehouse and courthouse in which they can get a hearing.
The fat lady hasn’t sung yet, and perhaps she won’t be making an appearance at the Supreme Court at all. And that’s a good thing.