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!
  • Can you relate?
  • The Forverts' "Bintel Brief" advice column ran for more than 65 years. Now it's getting a second life — as a cartoon.
  • Half of this Hillel's members believe Jesus was the Messiah.
  • Vinyl isn't just for hipsters and hippies. Israeli photographer Eilan Paz documents the most astonishing record collections from around the world:http://jd.fo/g3IyM
  • Could Spider-Man be Jewish? Andrew Garfield thinks so.
  • Most tasteless video ever? A new video shows Jesus Christ dying at Auschwitz.
  • "It’s the smell that hits me first — musty, almost sweet, emanating from the green felt that cradles each piece of silver cutlery in its own place." Only one week left to submit! Tell us the story of your family's Jewish heirloom.
  • Mazel tov to Chelsea Clinton and Marc Mezvinsky!
  • If it's true, it's pretty terrifying news.
  • “My mom went to cook at the White House and all I got was this tiny piece of leftover raspberry ganache."
  • Planning on catching "Fading Gigolo" this weekend? Read our review.
  • A new initiative will spend $300 million a year towards strengthening Israel's relationship with the Diaspora. http://jd.fo/q3Iaj Is this money spent wisely?
  • Lusia Horowitz left pre-state Israel to fight fascism in Spain — and wound up being captured by the Nazis and sent to die at Auschwitz. Share her remarkable story — told in her letters.
  • Vered Guttman doesn't usually get nervous about cooking for 20 people, even for Passover. But last night was a bit different. She was cooking for the Obamas at the White House Seder.
  • 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.