US Supreme Court to rule on same-sex marriage

Expert: Unlikelyl to affect legalization in MD

The debate over same sex marriage is now headed to the United States Supreme Court.

Same sex couples in Maryland just began receiving marriage licenses this week, after voters passed "Question 6" last month.

The Supreme Court has actually selected two same-sex marriage cases -- one was brought by 83-year-old Edie Windsor.

When her long-time partner died, the federal Defense of Marriage Act meant the US government did not recognize that Windsor's inheritance came from a spouse, so she had to pay hundreds of thousands of dollars more in estate taxes.

In that case, University of Baltimore law professor Byron Warnken says the nine justices must decide if that's a violation of her rights.

"The question is, is that law a denial of equal protection- to treat them differently," he said.

The second case comes from California, where the state legislature had legalized same sex marriage, but then citizens voted it down in a referendum.

Several other states have banned same sex marriage, including 31 that have passed constitutional amendments against it.

Warnken says the justices have the power in the California case to overturn every one of those at once.

"They could say, 'All laws, whether it comes from referendum, comes from courts, comes from legislatures, all laws denying marriage based upon gender are unconstitutional.' If they decide it that broadly it ends the issue," Warnken said.

Several states have passed same sex marriage recently, including Maryland.

Warnken says if the Supreme Court rules that states can prevent same sex marriage, that doesn't mean that they must prevent it.

"If the state allows same sex marriage to go forward, even though the United States Constitution doesn't mandate it, then that would be fine. So it wouldn't affect a thing," Warnken said.

Maryland Attorney General Doug Gansler issued a statement Friday night, saying he's anticipating that the Supreme Court will "Expand marriage equality throughout the United States."

The cases are expected to be argued before the court in March, and then the decision would likely come in June.

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