The U.S. Supreme Court took the first step toward negotiating its way through complicated questions of same-sex marriage on Friday by agreeing to review cases concerning both Proposition 8, California’s ban on same-sex marriage, and the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), the federal law that prevents the federal government from recognizing same-sex marriages.
KQED’s Scott Shafer asked U.C. Davis constitutional law expert Vikram Amar to explain the ramifications of the court’s selections. Edited transcript:
SCOTT SHAFER: Before the court decided to hear this case, there were a lot of questions about how broad a question the Supreme Court would take up, whether this could be a ruling applying nationwide or just to California. Which way did they decide to go?
VIK AMAR: We don’t know. Remember, the Ninth Circuit Court invalidated Prop. 8. on grounds that were very specific to Prop. 8 and wouldn’t necessarily invalidate same-sex marriage bans in other states. That was an attempt by the Ninth Circuit to narrow the case so as to keep it away from the Supreme Court. That didn’t work. The Supreme Court is going to take the case. But whether they decide it on the same narrow grounds that the Ninth Circuit Court did, or they use it to more broadly accept or reject gay marriage is open to question, and we won’t know until the Supreme Court decides next spring.
SCOTT SHAFER: The legal team for Prop. 8 held a phone conference call shortly after the Supreme Court announced its decision, and Ted Olson was asked how they were going to approach the briefs in this case. He said they would argue on the broad merits of the case, the same way they did before the Ninth Circuit. He said, “The fundamental right to marry… is fundamental to all citizens… It is one of the most fundamental rights, if not the most fundamental right that we have in this country.”