AUSTIN (Texas Tribune) — One of the biggest Supreme Court cases in years has cast a cloud of uncertainty over the fate of gay marriage bans still in place throughout most of the country, including Texas.
Today the Supreme Court will take up the first of two major gay marriage cases before the court this week. In the first case, which has generated more attention, the justices will hear arguments over whether California's Proposition 8 — which voters passed in 2008 to define marriage as a union between a man and a woman — violates the U.S. Constitution.
A decision isn't expected until the end of June, but court watchers already say the justices will likely rule one of five ways — the most sweeping of which would effectively overturn all gay marriage bans nationwide, including Texas' own constitutional prohibition, which voters approved in 2005 by a 76-24 margin.
Social conservatives say such a decision would overrule the will of Texas voters, as well as that of the roughly 40 states that have banned gay marriage by statute or constitutional amendment since 2000. One such conservative, Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott, has signed two amicus briefs asking the court to uphold Proposition 8.
"We’ve seen people go to the ballot box to express themselves on this issue," Jonathan Saenz, president of the conservative group Texas Values, told the Austin American-Statesman. "For the Supreme Court to reach down and tell Texas what to do on this issue, for five justices essentially to decide for 26 million Texans, is outrageous."
Saenz, as well as Gov. Rick Perry and Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst, are scheduled to speak at the Texas Faith and Family Day rally at the Capitol today.
Though some gay rights advocates fear that such a 50-state ruling could give rise to a long-term backlash, like the one that followed 1973's Roe v. Wade ruling, others say the speed with which public opinion has shifted on gay rights could translate to a broad ruling in favor of same-sex marriage.
Still, most court observers expect the justices to pursue a narrower decision that would pertain only to California or to the eight states that allow civil unions.
The other case, which the justices will hear Wednesday, questions the constitutionality of the federal Defense of Marriage Act, which allows the federal government to withhold benefits from same-sex married couples in states that have legalized such unions.
Arguments in the first case begin this morning at 9 a.m. Central.
Audio recordings of the proceedings will be released later in the afternoon.