This article is one in a multipart series leading up to a future Supreme Court decision on marriage equality. The Court has granted review of four marriage cases from the Sixth Circuit and a decision may be handed down at the end of June. Between now and then, Towleroad will break down the cases step by step. Today's topic: The Questions Presented.
Let's start at the very beginning. When the Supreme Court agreed to hear four marriage equality cases out of the Sixth Circuit, it issued an order that included two legal questions for the parties to answer.
1. Does the Fourteenth Amendment require a state to license a marriage between two people of the same sex?
2. Does the Fourteenth Amendment require a state to recognize a marriage between two people of the same sex when their marriage was lawfully licensed and performed out of state?
These are called "questions presented," and they frame the discussion in the parties' briefs and at oral argument. Petitions for writs of certioari at the Court have to include questions presented: they are the hooks that tell the justices that there is a live legal question of great importance that they must address. That said, the justices can adopt these questions, alter them, add or subtract from them, or deviate from them in any way.
This has led to quite a bit of chatter about what these particular questions mean for the argument. Adam Liptak of the New York Times suggested that the Court included Question 2 as a way to avoid a broad, nationwide pro-equality holding. It's a neat conjecture, one that is sure to keep the press abuzz. However, there are exactly zero reasons to believe Mr. Liptak is correct. Nothing nefarious or sneaky is going on. The Court is ready to rule on the freedom to marry. This is evident both from the questions presented and the Court's actions over the last several months.
I explain, AFTER THE JUMP...