WASHINGTON — The Supreme Court set the stage Friday for a historic decision on gay rights, announcing it would hear appeals of rulings striking down California's Proposition 8 and the federal law denying benefits for legally married same-sex couples.I don't know. I'm skeptical about that, as I noted earlier.
The court could decide in the Proposition 8 case whether the Constitution's promise of equal treatment gives gays and lesbians a right to marry. But the justices also left themselves the option to rule narrowly or even to duck a decision.
In 2008, California voters approved the measure limiting marriage to a man and a woman. Last year, the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals said the proposition had illegally taken away a right to marry that gays had won in the state courts.
This 9th Circuit decision, though limited to California, was the first by federal judges to reject a state's marriage law.
Ted Olson and David Boies, two nationally prominent attorneys who launched the legal attack on Proposition 8, served notice they would seek a broad ruling national in scope at a time when public opinion has turned in favor of gay marriage rights.
"We are going to address all the issues, focused on the fundamental constitutional right to marry of all citizens," Olson said Friday.
"We ought to have marriage equality as a constitutional right everywhere," Boies added.
They maintained they were not concerned that the decision to hear the case puts in jeopardy their court victory for California gays who wish to marry. If the justices had simply turned down the appeal, gay marriage would have once again been legal in the state.
John Eastman, a California law professor and chairman of the National Organization for Marriage, which supports traditional marriage, saw the court's announcement as a sign that Proposition 8 would be upheld. If so, gay marriage would remain illegal in California, barring another voter initiative.
"It's a strong signal that the justices are concerned with the rogue rulings that have come out of San Francisco. We believe the U.S. Supreme Court will overturn this exercise in judicial activism," said Eastman, a former clerk to Justice Clarence Thomas.
But continue reading in any case.