AT LAST: By late spring, the U.S. Supreme Court will add its final word to the legal debate over marriage equality.
a link to the U.S. Supreme Court announcement
that it will take appeals of the 2-1 Sixth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruling that overturned lower court decisions that invalidated same-sex marriage bans
in four states.
The cases are consolidated and the petitions for writs of certiorari are granted limited to the following questions: 1) Does the Fourteenth Amendment require a state to license a marriage between two people of the same sex? 2) Does the Fourteenth Amendment require a state to recognize a marriage between two people of the same sex when their marriage was lawfully licensed and performed out-of-state? A total of ninety minutes is allotted for oral argument on Question 1. A total of one hour is allotted for oral argument on Question 2. The parties are limited to filing briefs on the merits and presenting oral argument on the questions presented in their respective petitions. The briefs of petitioners are to be filed on or before 2 p.m., Friday, February 27, 2015. The briefs of
respondents are to be filed on or before 2 p.m., Friday, March 27, 2015. The reply briefs are to be filed on or before 2 p.m., Friday, April 17, 2015.
In other words, the U.S. Supreme Court will give the final word on same-sex marriage some time before its term ends in June. So far, all U.S. circuits that have heard cases since a landmark New York case have struck down bans on constitutional grounds except the 6th.
You'd hope that there's no basis for rumors that some on the Arkansas Supreme Court
have been delaying a ruling on the Arkansas case in hopes of U.S. Supreme Court guidance. The case was completed Nov. 20 after an expedited hearing schedule. The Arkansas court should decide the case on the law as it is known — overwhelmingly in favor of marriage equality as it happens, save for the notable 6th Circuit ruling. Justice — whatever it may be — is be denied with the extended delay.
The Arkansas Supreme Court has yet to make clear which justices will decide the appeal of Judge Chris Piazza's marriage ruling. Justice Robin Wynne didn't hear the oral arguments, his predecessor, retired Justice Donald Corbin did. But Wynne will vote on the final outcome. Up in the air is the seat held by appointment by retired Judge Robert McCorkindale
. He was appointed for a recused judge, Cliff Hoofman, whose term has ended and his seat is now held by Justice Rhonda Wood
. McCorkindale says he's still a special justice as far as he knows.
It's unknown whether the court delay could be connected with an internal review of whether the custom of having a special justice see a case through to the end applies or whether Wood should hear the case. I've written before that a strong argument exists for Wood to hear the case, since the circumstance that called for a special justice no longer exists and a duly elected justice is available.
Remember that the Arkansas case includes a state constitutional argument against the marriage ban that could apply regardless of how the U.S. Supreme Court rules.
Some 70 percent of the U.S. population lives in the 36 states where same-sex marriage is now legal. Several million more briefly enjoyed equality, including Arkansas, where 500 couples were married before Judge Piazza's decision was put on hold.
UPDATE: The Obama administration announced
that it would file a brief arguing for marriage equality.