In a major relief to the homosexual community in the United States, the Supreme Court on Friday agreed to hear the sensitive issue of gay marriages and decide whether all the 50 states in the country should allow the nuptial reunions of gay and lesbian couples.
With this decision, the country’s top court has moved a step forward in resolving one of the greatest civil rights questions before the ending of its current term in June.
The major breakthrough decision arrives nearly three months after the justices ducked the hot issue by denying in October last year to hear appeals from previous rulings that allowed same-sex marriage in five states in the country.
As the top court decided not to act over the issues related to same-sex marriage, the number of states allowing gay weddings has grown to 36. This makes more than 70 percent of Americans living in regions where gay couples can marry.
The SC justices asked the parties to the cases to address two important questions in their legal briefs: whether the country’s Constitution requires state-issued marriage licenses to the homosexual couples, and whether the states should recognize gay reunions that are performed in other states that consider such weddings legal.
On Friday, the Supreme Court agreed to hear the pending cases that were brought by around 15 homosexual couples in four states.
Presenting their positions before the court, the plaintiffs said that it is their fundamental right to marry and be treated on the similar lines as the opposite-sex couples are. According to them, the ban on their weddings have demeaned their dignity, inflicted harm on their children and imposed numerous practical difficulties to them.
The top court has given its approval to hear cases from Ohio, Michigan, Tennessee and Kentucky where an appeals court had imposed restrictions over gay marriage in Cincinnati two months ago. According to the reports, the court will be holding 2 1/2 hours of oral arguments in April and decide over the serious issue by the time the its current term ends in June.
Meanwhile, the gay rights activists and advocates welcomed the court’s decision, saying this is a giant step forward in a decades-long journey toward equal treatment, and they expressed confidence they would prevail.
Jon W Davidson, the legal director of Lambda Legal, said, “We are finally within sight of the day when same-sex couples across the country will be able to share equally in the joys, protections and responsibilities of marriage.”
The traditional marriage supporters said the top court has a chance to return the issue to legislators and voters.
“Lower court judges have robbed millions of people of their voice and vote on the most fundamental relationship of the society, i.e. marriage. There is nothing in the Constitution that empowers the courts to silence the people and impose a nationwide redefinition of marriage,” said Tony Perkins, the president of conservative policy and lobbying group, Family Research Council.
The country’s first same-sex marriage, which was the result of a decision by the Massachusetts court, occurred less than 11 years ago.