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The Supreme Court of the United States Agreed to Hear Arguments Regarding the Constitutionality of Same-Sex Marriage, But Why Now?

After much delay, and even more deliberation, the Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) decided on January 16 to hear arguments regarding the constitutionality of same-sex marriage. Ask Dana Kessel, April DeBoer, and Jayne Rowse, and they’ll tell you, this chance to present their case in front of the nation’s highest ruling body has been a long time coming.

“While many in the legal community, as well as [the two plaintiffs and lead attorney in the challenge to Michigan’s ban on same-sex marriage] expected the Supreme Court to allow for the case to be heard, it is still a monumental moment in the fight for LGBT rights,” said Chris Kessel, Partner at Nessel & Kessel Law. “Never before has the United State Supreme Court allowed for oral argument, and [never before have they] been prepared to rule on the exact issue of same-sex marriage.”

But why has it taken so long, and what does it all mean?

What’s been the holdup?

For same-sex couples (like DeBoer and Rowse), and for their straight allies, it may seem like the “Should it, or shouldn’t it be?” has been raging for way too long — for 11 years, in fact, since Massachusetts became the first state to legalize same-sex marriage — but the truth is, the issue came into the justices purview only in the last half-decade.

Why now?

In October 2014, the Supreme Court sidestepped the issue of gay marriage when it declined to review cases that originated in Chicago, Denver, and Richmond, Virginia. Lower courts in these regions ruled that the Constitution does protect same-sex unions, but just a month later, another panel, in Cincinnati this time, disagreed. While this Sixth Circuit decision at first seemed to be a loss for the LGBT community — most especially for those in the affected states: Michigan, Ohio, Kentucky, and Tennessee — it was this conflict that ultimately led SCOTUS to take the case.

To date, same-sex couples can get legally married in 36 states and the District of Columbia, while the law books in 14 states still ban gay marriage. Attorneys on both sides of the issue are preparing their arguments, and preparing themselves to stand before nine elected justices, and plead theirs, and their clients’ cases.

When will we know the outcome?

Oral arguments will begin in April, and the Supreme Court of the United States is expected to issue their ruling in late June. The Nessel & Kessel Law blog will be your resource for all things same-sex marriage in the months to come, so check back often.

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