High court leaves open if it will take up gay marriage case

Fri Nov 30, 2012 7:52pm EST
 
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By Terry Baynes

(Reuters) - The U.S. Supreme Court's nine justices met in private on Friday to consider whether to enter the legal fray over same-sex marriage but made no announcement about any decision they may have reached.

The high court is considering whether to review five separate challenges to a federal law that prevents married same-sex couples from receiving federal marriage benefits such as Social Security survivor payments and tax exemptions.

It is also considering whether to review California's ban on same-sex marriage, known as Proposition 8, which voters narrowly approved in 2008.

An announcement about whether the court will review the gay marriage cases could come as early as Monday morning.

Thirty-one of the 50 states have passed constitutional amendments banning gay marriage while Washington, D.C., and nine states have legalized it, three of them on Election Day, November 6.

At issue is the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act, or DOMA, which only recognizes marriages between a man and a woman. Gay men and lesbians have challenged a part of the law that prevents them from receiving federal benefits that heterosexual couples receive.

Most courts that have addressed the issue, including federal appeals courts in Boston and New York, have found the law's contested provision violates the equal protection provisions of the U.S. Constitution.

Even in states where same-sex marriage is legal, the couples do not qualify for a host of federal benefits because of DOMA.   Continued...

 
Scott Everhart and Jason Welker hold each other before exchanging wedding vows at a comic book retail shop in Manhattan, New York June 20, 2012. REUTERS/Adrees Latif