Politics

Supreme Court To Consider Sept. 29 Whether To Hear Same-Sex Marriage Cases

The justices will be considering seven different petitions to hear marriage appeals at their first conference of the year.

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WASHINGTON — On September 29, the justices of the Supreme Court will be considering whether to hear a case about same-sex couples’ marriage rights and, if so, which one to take.

The justices will be meeting on that date to consider the mountain of case requests — called petitions for a writ of certiorari — that came in over the summer. They will be considering seven different petitions at that conference from various state and county officials asking the justices to hear their case, according to updated docket information from the court on Wednesday.

The cases present challenges to bans on same-sex couples’ marriage and, in all cases but one, recognition of such marriages granted out of state. The case out of Oklahoma only involves the marriage ban and is brought in a petition from Tulsa County Clerk Sally Howe Smith. The other petitions address marriage and marriage-recognition bans and come from cases out of Indiana, Utah, Virginia, and Wisconsin.

In Indiana, Utah, and Wisconsin, each state’s attorney general filed the petition on behalf of state officials. In Virginia, there are three petitions: one from Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring, who opposes the ban as being unconstitutional, and two from court clerks, Norfolk Circuit Court Clerk George Schaefer and Prince William County Court Clerk Michele McQuigg.

The justices do not need to choose at the September 29 conference whether to take a case. In 2012, for example, the justices held certiorari petitions in cases involving the Defense of Marriage Act and California’s Proposition 8 until December before deciding to take the Proposition 8 case and Edie Windsor’s challenge to DOMA.

In the first of two unusual twists, the bans in all of the cases have been struck down by the lower courts in decisions over the summer from the 4th Circuit, 7th Circuit, and 10th Circuit courts of appeal. Although some parties have pointed to a 2006 decision from the 8th Circuit Court of Appeals, there is no traditional “circuit split,” meaning that every appeals court to consider the issue since Supreme Court’s 2013 ruling striking down DOMA has reached the same conclusion that the bans are unconstitutional.

The justices could choose to hold the cases until the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals issues its decision in cases challenging marriage or marriage recognition bans in Kentucky, Michigan, Ohio, and Tennessee. The oral arguments in that case appeared to raise questions about whether the 6th Circuit would buck the trend of decisions, creating a circuit split by upholding the bans.

Additionally, and likely pressing the justices to take action on at least one of the petitions sooner rather than later, all of the same-sex couples who won in the appeals courts have agreed with the state and local officials that the Supreme Court should take up and decide the issue, nationally, once and for all.

Here are the petitions before the justices, and the outside groups that have weighed in with amicus curiae, or friend of the court, briefs that have urged the justices to take the cases.

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Chris Geidner is the legal editor for BuzzFeed News and is based in Washington, D.C. In 2014, Geidner won the National Lesbian & Gay Journalists Association award for journalist of the year.
Contact Chris Geidner at chris.geidner@buzzfeed.com.
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