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Same-sex marriage: Waiting now for the Supreme Court to act

As reflected in polls and recent ballot measures, public opinion is moving in favor of same-sex marriage. Now that the US Supreme Court has agreed to take up the issue, both sides in the debate look for clear legal resolution.

By Staff writer / December 8, 2012

Former Army Major Margaret Witt, right, and Lori Johnson at home in Spokane, Wash. They are planning to marry in a few weeks after receiving one of the first marriage licenses for same sex couples. Witt fought the Army over "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" and was with President Obama when he signed the repeal.

Jesse Tinsley/The Spokesman-Review/AP

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The US Supreme Court’s announcement this week that it will take up two key same-sex marriage cases sets the scene now for several months of legal speculation and deeply-felt advocacy.

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The speculation has to do with how the high court will act once it begins considering the issue, likely next spring. Who will it hear arguments from? Will it come down strongly and clearly for or against gay marriage? Or will it rule narrowly, sending the cases back to lower courts for further deliberation or perhaps simply letting those courts’ rulings stand?

In other words, same-sex marriage may be the "defining civil rights issue of our time,” as high-profile attorneys Theodore Olson and David Boies argue in their case against California’s Proposition 8 ban on gay marriage. But it will not necessarily be settled broadly for all Americans and for all time as a constitutional issue.

If it’s true that the Supreme Court pays at least some attention to political, cultural, and social trends in the United States, as some legal scholars and historians contend, then momentum seems to be in the direction of approval of same-sex marriage.

How much do you know about the US Constitution? A quiz.

Polls show a clear shift in public acceptance, especially among under-30 Americans – 63-35 percent approve, according to a Quinnipiac University poll this past week. For all age groups, Gallup puts the number at 53-46 approval.

One hint at changing attitudes, even among those who continue to believe strongly that marriage must be exclusively between one man and one woman: The Mormon Church (which provided much if not most of the financing and grass-roots support for Prop. 8 in California) just launched a new website “aimed at providing ‘greater sensitivity and better understanding’ among Latter-day Saints with regards to same-sex attraction,” reports the church-owned Deseret News in Salt Lake City.

“The experience of same-sex attraction is a complex reality for many people,” the church’s position reads. “The attraction itself is not a sin, but acting on it is. Even though individuals do not choose to have such attractions, they do choose how to respond to them. With love and understanding, the Church reaches out to all God’s children, including our gay and lesbian brothers and sisters.”

While rejecting the notion that homosexual relations are a sin, Valerie Larabee, executive director of the Utah Pride Center, says this move by the church gives gay Mormons hope “through knowing that their families and church leaders are committed to reducing judgment, rejection, and isolation.”

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