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1. On Nov. 30 and again Dec. 7, the nine justices could be deciding whether they will hear cases challenging the federal definition of marriage in the Defense of Marriage Act, California’s Proposition 8 and more.
Addressing marriage rights, the way the federal government treats married couples and the way the law treats gay, lesbian and bisexual people generally, these cases are important. “These are the most significant cases these nine Justices have ever considered, and probably that they will ever decide,” SCOTUSblog’s Tom Goldstein wrote on Nov. 30.
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2. They almost certainly will hear at least one of the DOMA cases, like Edith Windsor’s challenge, because two federal appeals courts have said the law is unconstitutional, and the Supreme Court will want to resolve that inconsistency.
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3. The justices also could hear the challenge to California’s Proposition 8 brought by the American Foundation for Equal Rights, but it also could do two other things.
It could deny the appeal, which would put into effect the appeals court decision striking down the initiative and allow same-sex couples to resume marrying in the state, or it could hold the case until it reaches a decision on DOMA.
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4. Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer has asked the court to hear an appeal of a decision stopping the state from enforcing a new law that would end domestic partner benefits for state employees. Same-sex couples sued and won below.
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5. Once the court has announced the cases it is hearing, parties will brief the justices on their arguments and the court will hear oral arguments.
Despite much attention, the court didn’t make any announcement Nov. 30 or Dec. 2 regarding the cases. The court’s next conference is scheduled to take place Dec. 7.
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6. Most think that Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy is the vote in the center on these cases, so expect that he will be getting a lot of attention in coming months.
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7. Some LGBT advocates also think Chief Justice John Roberts, who upheld Obamacare with the more liberal justices this year, could side with same-sex couples in the cases.
Brendan Mcdermid / Reuters
8. Justice Antonin Scalia, who has been outspoken in defense of his vote against making sodomy laws unconstitutional, is likely to be the firebrand supporting DOMA, Proposition 8 or the Arizona law.
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9. As the justices write their opinions, people will wait for the court to rule. Generally, all decisions are issued by the end of June in the term the cases are heard.
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10. Then, the court will rule in whatever cases it has accepted. If it has accepted a DOMA case and held the Proposition 8 and/or Arizona cases, it likely then would send the cases back to the appeals court to reconsider them in light of the DOMA decision.
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11. During all of this time, same-sex couples like those challenging Proposition 8 — Sandy Stier and Kris Perry and Paul Katami and Jeff Zarrillo — will await word.