As the U.S. Supreme Court takes up its first same-sex marriage case, the justices appear reluctant to make a ruling.
(Image source: Washington Times ) BY ELIZABETH HAGEDORN As thousands of supporters and opponents of one of the country’s most divisive issues gathered outside the U.S. Supreme Court, the justices inside appeared poised to avoid issuing a broad ruling. The case before the Supreme Court involves whether Proposition 8, California’s voter-approved ban on gay marriage, is constitutional. (Via ABC ) The early reaction on Twitter from many of the reporters present during Tuesday’s oral arguments was that the justices, both liberal and conservative, were reluctant to issue a sweeping decision that would have any national consequences. CBS’s chief legal correspondent Jan Crawford tweeted , “In 80 minutes of arguments, justices on both sides seemed to be looking for a way to avoid deciding the merits of CA same-sex marriage case.” With CNN’s Supreme Court expert Jeffrey Toobin saying , “Totally baffled after hearing today’s same sex marriage arguments. No clear winner.” And the Daily Beast’s Kirsten Powers told Fox News , “I think it’s going to be a major disappointment to everyone on both sides. I think people are really hoping for some sort of clarity on this issue.” At one point, Justice Anthony Kennedy, believed by many to be the critical vote in the case, wondered whether the court was headed into what he called “uncharted waters.” (Via CNN ) And Justice Sonia Sotomayor wondered if it was too soon to rule on gay marriage. (Via Wikimedia Commons ) “Why is taking a case now the answer?...We let issues perk, and so we let racial segregation perk for 50 years from 1898 to 1954.” There are several possible scenarios when it comes time for the court to rule. In the most sweeping outcome, the court could decide that limits on same sex marriage violate the 14th Amendment — effectively legalizing gay marriage across the U.S. But the court also could dismiss the case altogether, citing a lack of standing from supporters of Prop 8 and thus leaving intact the decision by a lower court that struck down the ban. Finally, the court could issue a narrow ruling, applying the right to gay marriage only in California. (Via CBS ) SCOTUSBlog’s Tom Goldstein comments what he says is the most likely outcome, writing: “The bottom line, in my opinion, is that the Court probably will not have the five votes necessary to get to any result at all, and almost certainly will not have five votes to decide the merits of whether Proposition 8 is constitutional.” But as some pundits have pointed out, history has proven that reading too much into the early court arguments can be dangerous. Look no further than the surprise ruling on the president’s health care law, which seemed at first to have a majority of the court lined up against it. (Via NBC ) Wednesday’s arguments will focus on the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act, which says gay couples are not entitled to the same federal benefits as same-sex couples. A ruling is slated for June.