Supreme Court to decide on gay marriage at national level

The U.S. Supreme Court announced on Jan. 16 that it will make a ruling on same-sex marriage likely due to the mixed rulings in the lower courts, said David Dehnel, professor of political science.
“There are states in which the bans on gay marriage have been upheld by the lower courts, and there are states where these bans have been struck down,” said Dehnel. “So, unless you are going to go on with two different constitutions in different parts of the country, the Supreme Court needs to make a decision.”
According to the LA Times, The Supreme Court set aside 2.5 hours of argument in April, with discussions focused on two questions: Does the 14th Amendment include a right to marry for same-sex couples, and must all states recognize same-sex marriages that took place in other states? The Supreme Court is scheduled to release its decision in June.
Dehnel said the decision will most likely come down to the vote of Justice Anthony Kennedy.
“In earlier gay rights cases, he voted with more liberal judges in 5 to 4 splits,” said Dehnel. “I am confident there will be at least four votes, with Kennedy possibly giving them their fifth vote, or even Justice Roberts giving them a sixth vote.”
Marsha Smith, sociology and anthropology professor, agrees with Dehnel that the outcome could come down to a 5-4 ruling in favor of gay marriage.
Smith said that she understands the legal aspects behind why the Supreme Court must make a final ruling, due to the rapid movement of this social issue. From the sociological standpoint, however, Smith finds that gay marriage has now reached a universal threshold.
“America is seeing a generational shift, and people are far more supportive,” said Smith. “Today, there are expanding ideas on what a family should be, creating more support for this change.”
This expanding change mirrors a direct evolution of interpretation within the Supreme Court, which has been present for centuries, especially in cases involving segregation, said Dehnel.
“We’ve seen the court on many issues advancing and retreating, with probably the closest parallel being race,” said Dehnel. “In the 1850s, the court said that blacks couldn’t be citizens to later saying that it was ok to require segregation, and then ultimately reversing that decision to finally decide that segregation was invalid.”