US Supreme Court Justices (L-R) John G. Roberts, Anthony M. Kennedy, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Stephen G. Breyer and Sonia Sotomayor stand before the State of the Union address on Jan. 20, 2015 in Washington, DC.
Photo by Mandel Ngan-Pool/Getty

SCOTUS schedules a date for marriage equality hearing

Mark your calendars: The U.S. Supreme Court has scheduled oral argument for April 28 in consolidated marriage equality cases out of Kentucky, Michigan, Ohio, and Tennessee.

The hearing could yield a landmark ruling for gay rights that establishes a 50-state solution to the question of whether same-sex couples have a constitutional right to wed. Marriage equality advocates have been working toward this moment for years, the last two of which have seen an unprecedented streak of victories in courts of law as well as in the court of public opinion.

Thirty-six states plus the District of Columbia currently allow gay and lesbian couples to legally wed. That number was in the single digits two years ago – the last time the Supreme Court heard arguments on the marriage rights of same-sex couples.

In 2013, the high court ducked the constitutionality question now before them in a challenge to California’s former ban on same-sex nuptials, known as Proposition 8. The justices ended up tossing the case on procedural grounds. But that same year, the high court did hand down an historic ruling invalidating the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) – a federal law that defined marriage as a union between one man and one woman. The DOMA decision has been cited in numerous federal rulings invalidating same-sex marriage bans across the country.

All of the four same-sex marriage bans before the justices were struck down at the district level, but upheld by the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals – the only federal appeals court to have ruled against marriage equality since DOMA. A decision will likely come at the end of June.