Supreme Court May Seek To Avoid Sweeping Ruling on Gay Marriage

Questions Suggest a Narrow Focus — Not Wide Constutionality

Yes and No: Protesters on both sides fo the gay marriage issue rallied outside the Supreme Court in Washington.
getty images
Yes and No: Protesters on both sides fo the gay marriage issue rallied outside the Supreme Court in Washington.

By Reuters

Published March 26, 2013.
  • Print
  • Share Share
  • Single Page

For nearly four years, proponents of same-sex marriage have been strategically building a test case aimed at convincing the conservative-leaning U.S. Supreme Court to declare that gay marriage is a constitutional right. The advocates felt they were ready.

But on Tuesday, after an intense, wide-ranging hearing, it appeared the justices were not.

Over the course of the 80-minute session, it seemed that for the array of gay rights supporters across the country, neither their greatest hopes nor worst fears would be realized.

A majority of the justices suggested by their comments and questions that they were not prepared to rule on whether a fundamental right exists for gays and lesbians to marry. Some justices even suggested that the specific case before them, testing the validity of a 2008 California ballot initiative that defined marriage as only between a man and woman, might not be resolved on the merits.

The justices return to the bench on Wednesday for the narrower question of whether the federal government may deny benefits to married same-sex couples that are allowed their opposite-sex counterparts.

The court has several options on how it might resolve that case, from a finding that the Republican-dominated congressional group defending the law lacks “legal standing,” resulting in dismissal, to a decision striking down the provision and robustly declaring that all laws tied to sexual orientation deserve tough judicial scrutiny.

That latter stance could eventually pave the way for gay marriage laws nationwide, well beyond the nine states and District of Columbia that now allow it. But from the tone of arguments on Tuesday, a majority would likely resist that route.

Justices across the ideological spectrum suggested they wanted to tread a cautious path in the cases that have become the most closely watched of the term.

The white marble and crimson velvet courtroom was crowded with nearly 400 spectators, some of whom had waited since last Thursday, in snow and rain, for seats. The paired cases have drawn a record number of “friend of the court” briefs and become the occasion for near daily declarations in support of gay marriage from public figures and prominent organizations.


The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.





Find us on Facebook!
  • “I don’t want to say, ‘Oh oh, I’m not Jewish,’ because when you say that, you sound like someone trying to get into a 1950s country club, “and I love the idea of being Jewish." Are you a fan of Seth Meyers?
  • "If you want my advice: more Palestinians, more checkpoints, just more reality." What do you think?
  • Happy birthday Barbra Streisand! Our favorite Funny Girl turns 72 today.
  • Clueless parenting advice from the star of "Clueless."
  • Why won't the city give an answer?
  • BREAKING NEWS: Israel has officially suspended peace talks with the Palestinians.
  • Can you guess what the most boring job in the army is?
  • What the foolish rabbi of Chelm teaches us about Israel and the Palestinian unity deal:
  • Mazel tov to Idina Menzel on making Variety "Power of Women" cover! http://jd.fo/f3Mms
  • "How much should I expect him and/or ask him to participate? Is it enough to have one parent reciting the prayers and observing the holidays?" What do you think?
  • New York and Montreal have been at odds for far too long. Stop the bagel wars, sign our bagel peace treaty!
  • Really, can you blame them?
  • “How I Stopped Hating Women of the Wall and Started Talking to My Mother.” Will you see it?
  • Taglit-Birthright Israel is redefining who they consider "Jewish" after a 17% drop in registration from 2011-2013. Is the "propaganda tag" keeping young people away?
  • Happy birthday William Shakespeare! Turns out, the Bard knew quite a bit about Jews.
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.