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Supreme Court Finally Ponders If Gays Get Equal Marriage Rights

  • 03.27.13 11:10 AM EDT

The Supreme Court will hear two cases this week both questioning the rights of gay Americans to marry. The court will hear arguments Tuesday and Wednesday, but rulings aren't likely until the summer. 

On Tuesday, the court will hear a challenge to the constitutionality of Proposition 8, a California ballot initiative in 2008 that added an amendment to the California constitution defining marriage as between a man and a woman. Prop. 8 effectively reversed an earlier ruling by the states Supreme Court which stated that gay couples have a constitutional right to marry. 

On Wednesday, the court will take up the Defense of Marriage Act (DoMA) is a federal law that defines marriage between a man and a woman signed in 1996 by then President Clinton. In 2011, President Obama said that he believed that DoMA was unconstitutional and that while the law still stood, the  Justice Department would stop defending it. About 9 months later in May of 2012, in an interview with Robin Roberts, Obama came out fully in favor of marriage rights for gay couples. 

In a recent editorial, President Clinton wrote that he feels it's now time to repeal DoMA. His wife, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton also came out in favor of same-sex couples' rights to marry in a video on a gay rights organization's website last week.

There has been a massive shift in public opinion on the issue of gay marriage: in 2004, a poll found that 30% of Americans supported gay marriage. Now, less than a decade later, some polls find support as high as 60%.

There are an estimated 120,000 same-sex couples in the US that are legally married. Nine states currently allow gay marriage and 29 have added measures to their constitutions to ban it.