For the first time, the US Supreme court has agreed to hear arguments against the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), and Proposition 8, a constitutional amendment enacted in California to overturn the state law allowing gay weddings. The hearings are slated to begin in March, with a potential ruling as early as June. Lower courts have declared DOMA and Proposition 8 unconstitutional and discriminatory against same-sex couples. The Supreme Court has the power to uphold these rulings, and make gay marriage a constitutional right, declare the matter is out of their jurisdiction, or strike down the judgment of the lower courts and reinstate the laws.
Four federal courts and two courts of appeal have ruled against DOMA, and President Obama said his administration will not back the act in court. The most recent rejection of the act was by the 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals in New York, which declared DOMA a constitutional violation of equal protection. It is this case the Supreme Court will hear. Widow Edith Windsor had to pay $350,000 in taxes after the death of her wife because the act declared marriage only valid between a man and a woman. The law retains the support of Republicans in congress and lawyers representing the leaders in the House of Representatives.