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Anthony Kennedy
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Anthony Kennedy

Marriage in the dock

and more news briefs

Issue: "2012 News of the Year," Dec. 29, 2012

By next June, the Supreme Court could upend every state and federal law defining marriage as between a man and a woman. On Dec. 7, the court agreed to hear two cases that question the constitutionality of a state law—California’s Proposition 8—and of a federal law—the Defense of Marriage Act. Both cases could also establish whether the law must give homosexuality a constitutional status like race or gender. The court could also avoid the central questions about marriage and dismiss the cases on technicalities. 

The lead-up to the high court taking these two cases parallels the lead-up to the 1973 Roe v. Wade case that forced states to legalize abortion. At the state level in the decades before Roe, voters blocked referendum after referendum to legalize abortion by sizable majorities. But then the Supreme Court stepped in and overturned many state-level restrictions on abortion with one decision. Similarly, in the last decade, 38 states have passed traditional marriage laws, either by referendum or in legislatures. The Supreme Court could pull the constitutional foundation out from under those laws with these cases.

The court will likely hear both cases—Hollingsworth v. Perry and Windsor v. United States—in late March, according to court expert Lyle Denniston of SCOTUSblog. All eyes turn again to Justice Anthony Kennedy, who wrote two of the court’s major opinions on gay rights—Romer v. Evans and Lawrence v. Texas—both of which dealt with discrimination against homosexuals in a broad sense. But neither of those cases got to the question of whether same-sex “marriage” is constitutional.

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Tufts decision

Handout photo

Student religious groups should not have to appoint leaders who do not share their beliefs, a student judiciary at Tufts University announced on Dec. 5. In reviewing a discrimination complaint filed against Tufts Christian Fellowship, the largest evangelical group on the Medford, Mass., campus, the Tufts Committee on Student Life decided unanimously the school’s “all comers” policy should not apply to leaders of religious groups. “It is reasonable to expect that leaders within individual [religious groups] be exemplars of that particular religion,” the committee ruled. “Therefore, an ‘all comers’ policy for group leadership may not be appropriate for all [religious groups].”

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