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When Minnesota approves gay marriage, does Supreme Court listen? Maybe. (+video)

Minnesota on Tuesday became the third state in two weeks to legalize gay marriage. According to one exchange at the Supreme Court earlier this year, that's exactly why the justices shouldn't get involved.

Gay marriage legal in Minnesota
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In the past two weeks the number of states recognizing same-sex marriages has risen from nine to 12, with new marriage bills signed into law in Rhode Island, Delaware, and – on Tuesday – in Minnesota.

Public polls in recent weeks confirm that more Americans than ever before accept the idea of same-sex marriage.

And there’s an even bigger potential prize on the horizon as the justices of the US Supreme Court work behind the scenes fashioning decisions expected next month in two major gay rights cases, both involving same-sex marriage.

While it is clear that gay-rights advocates are enjoying significant momentum and historic victories, it is not at all clear how these recent successes will be perceived by the justices at the high court.

Some analysts see the recent events as helpful to the cause of gay rights, while others suggest the rapid progress could convince a swing justice or justices that the intervention of the courts is not necessary.

In one possible scenario, the rising tide of public opinion and state laws favoring equal rights for gay men and lesbians may embolden Justice Anthony Kennedy, a potential swing vote, to join the court’s liberal wing in providing special legal protections for gay Americans like those that cover African-Americans, Latinos, and women.

On the other hand, the recent successes might also convince Justice Kennedy and/or other justices that the political process – and democracy itself – is an engine of change sufficient enough to guarantee the rights of gay Americans.

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