September 29, 2014
I know many of us have been following the marriage equality debate for far too long now, and what’s about to happen in the following weeks seems long overdue. Haven’t you heard? The so-called “fight for gay marriage” (phrasing that most of my audience understands is more than a bit problematic) has finally made its way to the Supreme Court.
Over the past couple of weeks justice Ginsberg, easily the court’s most progressive member, has hinted at, and then confirmed, that the nation’s highest court would take on the hot button topic.
The fact that the “issue” is either “hot-button” or an issue in the first place seems trivial at this point, but the implications of the court’s decision could be far from it. So, friends, let’s take a look at a few important things to keep in mind when the Supreme Court heads into session tomorrow.
First of all, if you didn’t already know, the American legal system aligns itself closely with the concept of precedent. In a nutshell, it means that decisions made in one court will often affect the outcomes of future cases in others. Indeed, in courts of law, lawyers are often asked to establish precedent for bringing a case in the first place.
Being what it is, the Supreme Court’s decision sets a precedent to be used by all other courts in the country. In short, once a case is decided there, it has very little chance of being ruled differently in any other court in the country for a very long time, if ever.
Obviously, this is a big reason to pay attention to what’s going on, even if you’re tired of the notion of someone’s happiness and security being a political issue. We’re still likely several days or even weeks off from any kind of decision, but we can hope that it ends up a carefully considered one when it does arise.
Complicating matters more is that there are currently several possible cases that the Supreme Court could take up, which all originated from same sex marriage cases in state courts. Which case the court decides to look at is important because, depending on the specifics, each could end up slightly differently. Right now, it’s likely that if straight up asked to make a decision the court might grant marriage equality and we could breathe a sigh of relief, but not all of the cases are so cut and dried; some don’t pose the question so directly, and could lead to a decision with smaller implications (like the recognition of marriages formed in other states, but no decision made on states’ outright bans).
Before long, we’ll know the choice that’s made, and I hope for everyone’s sake the decision(s) we’re looking for will follow shortly after.