Three months to the day after the justices heard historic arguments on California's Proposition 8 and the Defense of Marriage Act, and on the last of its decision days for an already historic Spring term, the Supreme Court will rule on the two same-sex marriages cases on Wednesday, Chief Justice John Roberts announced on the second-to-last day, minutes after issuing the majority opinion on the Voting Rights Act. Yes, after none of the first 72 decisions were the ones perhaps more people were waiting for than even the VRA or Monday's affirmative action ruling, the wait will finally be over — and June 26, 2013 officially becomes one of the most important dates in America's difficult history with civil rights, whether the tea leaves prove true with a chaotic split, or whether that history is instantly definitive.
The announcement came on Tuesday, after the Court issued what the NAACP called "a step backwards in the march towards equal rights." But the penultimate decision day has tended to be when Roberts, in his time as the chief, announces that the following day will indeed be the last, and with just three cases left on the docket, Prop. 8 and DOMA must be among the final boxes. As the always reliable SCOTUSblog reported:
Tomorrow is the last #scotus day. Same-sex marriage. History.— SCOTUSblog (@SCOTUSblog) June 25, 2013
History indeed. On Wednesday shortly after 10 a.m. Eastern time, same-sex couples will find out if they can legally get married in this country in a possible end to the five-year fight against Proposition 8 (Hollingsworth v. Perry) in California and beyond. With DOMA (United States v. Windsor), there remains more wiggle room, and the Court could punt or send the case back down to the lower court like it did in the affirmative-action case Fisher v. Texas. Here's a handy flowchart or two if you're not all up to date by now, though you're probably sick of having this explained to you already.
The rulings might not come down right after 10, though, as there's actually one more case to be ruled on Wednesday, which is likely to be the opening act. Rulings are announced based on the seniority of the justice issuing the majority ruling, and Sekhar v. United States could be just that, as the Supremes decide whether or not a lawyer's advice or "recommendation" can be the subject of blackmail, as SCOTUS blog explains, "intangible property that can be the subject of an extortion attempt" under the Hobbs act. It also involves a saucy extramarital affair.
There remains little-to-no possibility that the Court would carry the gay marriage cases to its next term, when the two linked opinions would be re-argued. That only happens if there are major outstanding issues regarding the cases, and lawyers would then be contacted with more questions. And while "standing" itself may be a big issue, there were only two big questions left in this one: How soon, and what will be our history? One down, one to go.