Q&A: Prop. 8, gay marriage and the Supreme Court

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The U.S. Supreme Court did not address Proposition 8 on Monday morning, which leaves the issue of gay marriage in California in suspense for a while longer.

Here are some answers to common questions.

What is before the court?


Four years ago, California voters approved Proposition 8, which banned gay marriage. In 2009, the American Foundation for Equal Rights sued on behalf of two gay California couples who wanted to get married. A district judge found Proposition 8 unconstitutional. In February, the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals agreed. Proponents of Proposition 8 asked the Supreme Court to review the case.

Map: How gay marriage has progressed in the U.S.

Why was there no action today?

The justices had been set to discuss the Proposition 8 case at a private conference last Friday, along with several cases challenging the federal Defense of Marriage Act. After that conference, the justices released a list of cases they would take up in June, and the Proposition 8 case was not on the list, leading many to speculate the court may have decided not to hear the case. That would let the 9th Circuit ruling stand, clearing the way for same-sex marriage in California unless the Supreme Court gets involved.

When is the next time the Supreme Court could take action on the Prop. 8 case?

The justices will discuss the matter again this Friday in another private conference.

How long could this drag out?

The justices could announce as soon as this Friday that they are taking the case. They could also announce next Monday that they are not taking the case. Or they could continue to discuss it at subsequent conferences early next year. They still have time to take it up in June. They could also hear it next fall.

TIMELINE: Gay marriage since 2000

How quickly could same-sex marriages resume in California?

If the court decides not to take up the case, marriages could resume in California within days.

If the high court decides to review Hollingsworth vs. Perry, it could lead to a historic victory legalizing same-sex marriage nationwide. But gay activists are well aware that the court could rule against them and throw the movement back at a time when same-sex marriage has seen a series of election victories at the state level.

Opponents of gay marriage, by contrast, are eager for the Supreme Court to weigh in and are hoping it will block the growing legalization of same-sex unions.

What is the reaction to the lack of action?

Many were disappointed. In West Hollywood, Chi Chi La Rue said he was ‘exhausted’ by the ups and downs of the case. ‘It’s 2012 and people are getting married when they meet at casinos in Las Vegas,’ LaRue said. ‘Why can’t two people who are legitimately in love get married whether they are straight or gay?’

But Adam Umhoefer, executive director of the American Foundation for Equal Rights, which is fighting to overturn Proposition 8, was more sanguine.

‘We understand that it is a complex case, and if they need another week to reach the right decision, we’re fine with that,’ he said.


TIMELINE: Gay marriage since 2000

Map: How gay marriage has progressed in the U.S.

No Supreme Court decision on gay marriage: Some still optimistic

-- Jessica Garrison