In striking down Proposition 8, the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals crafted a narrow ruling that said because gay Californians already had been given the right to marry, the state could not later take it away. The ruling studiously avoided any sweeping pronouncements.
The larger constitutional issue almost certainly will be presented to the court, but the justices would not necessarily have to rule on it.
The other issue the high court will take on involves a provision of the Defense of Marriage Act, known by its acronym DOMA, which defines marriage as between a man and a woman for the purpose of deciding who can receive a range of federal benefits.
Four federal district courts and two appeals courts struck down the provision.
The justices chose for their review the case of 83-year-old Edith Windsor, who sued to challenge a $363,000 federal estate tax bill after her partner of 44 years died in 2009.
Windsor, who goes by Edie, married Thea Spyer in 2007 after doctors told them that Spyer would not live much longer. She suffered from multiple sclerosis for many years. Spyer left everything she had to Windsor.
There is no dispute that if Windsor had been married to a man, her estate tax bill would have been $0.
The 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New York agreed with a district judge that the provision of DOMA deprived Windsor of the constitutional guarantee of equal protection.
State's stance on
The Defense of Marriage Act, the subject of one of the cases, was authored in 1996 by two Oklahoma Republicans who formerly served in Congress. Former Rep. Steve Largent was one of the leading authors of the House version, and former Sen. Don Nickles was the lead author of the Senate bill.
In the California case, Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt joined a U.S. Supreme Court brief with 14 other attorneys general arguing that California voters had the right to pass a law to protect traditional marriage. The attorneys general called the court ruling invalidating the law a radical departure “from deeply ingrained American legal traditions and
Oklahoma voters approved a state question in 2004 banning gay marriage and the recognition of gay marriages performed in other states.