Constitutional Law

Supreme Court agrees to hear same-sex marriage cases

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The U.S. Supreme Court agreed Friday to decide whether states can prohibit same-sex marriage without violating the constitutional rights of gays and lesbians.

The court granted review of same-sex marriage bans in Michigan, Ohio, Kentucky and Tennessee that have been upheld by the Cincinnati-based 6th U.S Circuit Court of Appeals. All four cases will be consolidated and heard together, according to the National Law Journal and USA Today.

The justices directed briefing on both the bans themselves and on whether states have to recognize same-sex marriages performed in other states.

Arguments will likely be heard in April. A decision is expected by the end of June.

Same-sex marriage is now legal in 36 states and the District of Columbia. Fourteen states still prohibit them.

Friday’s decision ended months of speculation about if and when the high court would wade into the gay marriage debate. Last fall, the court, without comment, denied review of seven cases in which gay marriage bans had all been struck down by federal appeals courts.

The 6th Circuit’s decision in November to uphold four state bans, which created a split among federal appeals courts, may have forced the court’s hand.

The decision to settle the question once and for all should please both sides.

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