ILLUSTRATION BY MICHAEL SHIREY
Setting up what could be the final showdown on the question of marriage equality in the United States, the Supreme Court, on January 16, announced it would hear appeals from same-sex plaintiff couples in Ohio, Michigan, Tennessee, and Kentucky.
On November 6, the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals reversed gay marriage victories in each of those states and the plaintiffs promptly sought Supreme Court review.
Today, the high court directed plaintiffs to submit their briefs by February 27, with the states’ responses due on March 27, and final papers from the plaintiffs due April 17.
Should that schedule play out without complication, there would still be time for the Supreme Court to hear oral arguments and rule before it adjourns at the end of June. The resolution of these cases will likely decide the underlying question of whether there is a federal constitutional right for same-sex couples to marry.
Appeals rulings in the Fourth, Seventh, Ninth, and 10th Circuits came to different conclusions than did the Sixth Circuit panel. The Supreme Court let those gay marriage victories stand, as well as a district court victory in Florida. As a result, the number of marriage equality states grew from 17 to 36 over the past year.
Stay tuned for additional reporting on this developing story, including an analysis from New York Law School professor Arthur S. Leonard.