The court's decision to hear challenges to both California's Proposition 8 and the federal Defense of Marriage Act could lead to a series of historic rulings.
The Supreme Court announced Friday that it will decide two major gay marriage cases next year that could have a sweeping impact on the rights of same-sex couples to wed. The Supreme Court has never before agreed to hear a case dealing with same-sex marriage.
The court will review California's gay marriage ban, which passed in 2008 and has been struck down by two lower courts. The justices will also hear a challenge to the federal Defense of Marriage Act, which prevents the federal government from recognizing state-sanctioned gay marriages.
Windsor v. United States was brought by Edith Windsor, a resident of New York who paid $363,000 in estate taxes after her wife died because the federal government did not recognize their marriage. New York is one of nine states (and the District of Columbia) where gay marriage is legal, so Windsor argues that the federal government is discriminating against her by not recognizing her state-sanctioned marriage.
Voters passed Prop. 8 in 2008 months after the California's high court had legalized same sex unions and thousands of gay Californians had already tied the knot. Two federal courts have struck down Prop. 8 as discriminatory, leaving the Supreme Court to render a final judgment.