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Gay marriage reaches Supreme Court: Justices to review Prop 8., DOMA

The two cases being taken up by the Supreme Court involve a challenge to California’s Prop. 8 ban on gay marriage and a suit from New York City testing the federal Defense of Marriage Act.

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In this 2008 photo, a couple holds hands as they look for a quiet spot to hold their wedding at City Hall in San Francisco. The US Supreme Court decided Friday to hear the appeal of a ruling that struck down Proposition 8, the state’s measure that banned same sex marriages.

Marcio Jose Sanchez/AP

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The US Supreme Court announced Friday that it will take up two potential landmark gay rights cases, one testing California’s Proposition 8 ban on same-sex marriage and the other examining the federal Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA).

At issue is whether the measures unconstitutionally discriminate against gay and lesbian couples.

The action positions the high court at the center of a heated debate over same-sex marriage in America.

It comes roughly a month after voters in three states – Maryland, Washington, and Maine – agreed to authorize marriages without regard to sexual orientation. That brings to nine the number of states plus the District of Columbia that allow same-sex marriages in the US.

In contrast, 37 states have either passed constitutional amendments or enacted state statutes upholding the traditional definition of marriage as a union between one man and one woman.

The appeals likely will be set for oral argument in March or April, with decisions by late June.

At issue in the California Prop. 8 case is whether the state-wide referendum in 2008 banning same-sex marriage violated the equal protection rights of gay and lesbian couples seeking to marry.

The appeal – by supporters of Prop. 8 – asks the justices to overturn decisions by a federal judge and a federal appeals court panel striking down the state-wide ballot initiative.

The ballot campaign was launched to reverse a 4-3 decision by the California Supreme Court earlier that year that the state’s constitution required recognition of same-sex marriages.

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