The countdown is on for the Supreme Court to render its verdict in watershed cases that could bring marriage equality to all 50 states. But an update to the high court’s calendar suggests we could get a ruling as early as this Thursday.
According to the Supreme Court website, the Court has added a non-argument session “for the announcement of opinions on Thursday, June 18, 2015, at 10 am.” Insiders believe that’s when they’ll break the news of their decision in Obergefell v Hodges, which involves existing bans in Ohio, Michigan, Kentucky, and Tennessee.
It is possible, of course, that the justices will announce a verdict in some other case, and hold off on marriage equality until as late as June 30, when the current session ends.
What Are The Possible Verdicts In The Supreme Court Marriage Equality Cases?
Experts on both sides of the issue believe SCOTUS will issue a broad ruling granting federal marriage equality. But what does that actually mean? And what if the justices don’t?
Below, I’ll review three possible verdicts the Supreme Court could issue in Obergefell v Hodges and spell out what they mean in practical terms.
Of course SCOTUS can be unpredictable at times, so it is still a situation we wait for with bated breath.
If SCOTUS Rules Marriage-Equality Bans Are Unconstitutional…
Any remaining barriers to gay marriage are also unconstitutional, meaning same-sex couples will be able to marry anywhere in the country.
This is the best possible outcome, but if Ginsberg writes the opinion, then it could possibly be an even wider ruling.
If SCOTUS Limits Its Ruling To Require States To Recognize Marriage Equality…
Couples in states without same-sex marriage would actually have marry elsewhere, but must be afforded all the rights of the institution at home.
This may be the case of Roberts writes the opinion. If this is the case, then SCOTUS is keeping the status quo and issuing a half-hearted ruling such as we saw in Windsor, which struck down significant parts of DOMA.
If SCOTUS Rules In Favor of Bans On Marriage Equality…
In the immediate, bans in 14 states—including the ones in Ohio, Michigan, Kentucky, and Tennessee that are at stake in Obergefell v Hodges—would remain intact.
This would be the most disastrous of rulings, and means that Kennedy, who wrote the opinion in Windsor sided against equality in Obergefell.
Tragically, though, states that had their marriage bans thrown out by federal courts in the past could attempt to reinstate such barriers. Existing same-sex marriages could come into question, as well. Experts agree such a ruling would have wide-ranging effects that could throw our hard-earned victories into chaos.
However SCOTUS rules, it’s guaranteed to be a major issue of the 2016 presidential race, and the religious right will go nuts, either with joy or with the belief that the world is ending.
UPDATE: SCOTUS issued First Amendment and criminal law rulings, but nothing on Obergefell. The Court had seventeen opinions left to issue going into today. They issued six today. With eleven opinions left, SCOTUSblog believes that there is a possibility that they may extend the session into July. It happens on occasion, but because the justices have teaching and speaking obligations in July, they often attempt to finish by the end of June.