Back on SCOTUS Watch – What the Supreme Court is Doing Now

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September 26, 2014

Just last June, we were celebrating the end of an ugly chapter in our nation’s history.  The core of the so-called Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) was struck down, and the freedom to marry was restored in California. The DOMA decision touched many facets of life, from health care to taxes, and from benefits at work to security in retirement, but much work remained to be done to ensure that the relationships of same-sex couples were treated equally both federally and in their home states.  

As we implemented our strategy and filed lawsuits in Arizona, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, North Dakota, Ohio, Puerto Rico, Texas, Virginia and West Virginia (while continuing to press forward on our already pending suits in Nevada and New Jersey), we were determined that no state—and no couple—be left behind. Our sister legal organizations and other attorneys represented same-sex couples in other states and there are currently 93 lawsuits pending, with marriage equality already the law in 19 states and DC. We undertook this strategy convinced that victories in these lawsuits would help win the freedom to marry throughout the United States.  

See our interactive map of all pending marriage equality litigation nationwide.

It seems that day may soon come. The avalanche of state court, U.S. district court and appellate court rulings striking down state marriage bans that have followed the historic DOMA ruling has once again placed the issue of marriage for same-sex couples on the front stoop of the Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS). 

Since it’s been a year since we were on Supreme Court Watch, here’s a refresher on what you can expect.

On September 29, the Supreme Court will assemble for a private conference where they will take their first look at potentially hearing one or more of the pending cases. All of the marriage cases decided by the federal courts of appeal since the DOMA ruling are scheduled for this conference. Seven petitions to hear the four decisions affecting five states— three from Virginia, and one each from Indiana, Oklahoma, Utah, and Wisconsin — will be submitted to the Justices at this session. Lambda Legal supported the petitions on behalf of our clients in both the Bostic case (with the ACLU) in Virginia and the Baskin case in Indiana.

RSVP NOW: Join us for a teleconference the day the Supreme Court agrees to hear any of the pending marriage cases.

In this conference on September 29th, the Justices can vote to grant review in any one or any combination of the marriage cases before them, or none of them. We won’t hear what the Court has done on the 29th, of course. Usually, the cases granted review will be issued as part of an orders list, which is generally released on the Monday morning after the Justices' private conference. However, the Court has been known to issue an orders list earlier than that in order to expedite briefing and related activities, so we could possibly hear as early as Tuesday, September 30th, whether the Court will hear a marriage case and, if so, which one or more it has selected for review.

Because the LGBT movement was just in this same watchful position last year, we remember that there can be delays in issuing orders. The Court’s decisions about which case or cases to hear involves a good deal of complexity and may not be made right away. If the Court does grant review of any marriage cases any time up to the middle of January, arguments will be scheduled some time in the spring, and a final decision would be expected by next summer.

For now, we are back on SCOTUS watch. Stay tuned for more updates…

Learn more about our cases in Indiana and Virginia.

Timeline of Lambda Legal's Marriage Case in Indiana