The Supreme Court has finally agreed to hear four appeals of lawsuits challenging state bans on same-sex marriage — Michigan, Ohio, Kentucky and Tennessee. The court waited until there was a circuit split, which happened when the 6th Circuit upheld the bans in those states late last year.
The justices ordered that the parties to the cases address two questions in their legal briefs: whether the Constitution requires states to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples, and whether states must recognize same-sex marriages performed in other states where they are legal.
Advocates have called gay marriage the modern era’s most pressing civil rights issue, and the court’s action could mark the culmination of an unprecedented upheaval in public opinion and the nation’s jurisprudence.
The nation’s first same-sex marriage, the result of a Massachusetts court decision, took place less than 11 years ago. Now, more than 70 percent of Americans live in states where gay couples are allowed to marry, according to estimates.
The fact that the Michigan case is included is a very good sign. That case involves children more directly than most such cases as the plaintiffs are seeking to overturn the ban in order to adopt each other’s children. That is an arrow aimed directly at Justice Kennedy, whose majority opinion in the Windsor in 2012 was heavily focused on the impact on children, saying that refusal to recognize their parents’ marriages humiliates children.
My prediction remains the same: At the end of June this year, the Supreme Court will declare all such laws unconstitutional under the Equal Protection Clause and we will finally have marriage equality nationwide. And then the heads of bigots all over the will asplode. And then I’ll laugh. A lot.