How the Supreme Court could rule on gay marriage


Same-sex marriage supporters demonstrate in front of the US Supreme Court on March 27, 2013, in Washington, DC. The rights of married same-sex couples came under scrutiny during the second of two landmark cases being considered by the top judicial panel.



The Supreme Court is expected release its rulings on two cases dealing with same-sex marriage Wednesday morning.

One case, Windsor v. United States, challenges the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act. The outcome could decide whether same-sex couples are eligible for the same federal benefits as heterosexual couples.


1) The court could overturn DOMA, extending benefits to same-sex couples in the states in which gay marriage is already legal. However, there would be no impact on states which ban same-sex marriage.

2) If the court upholds DOMA, same-sex couples are denied federal benefits and the status quo remains.

3) The court could also decide it no longer has the ability to consider the case, as the US government decided to stop defending the case.


The second case under consideration, Hollingsworth v. Perry, challenges California's ban on same-sex marriage, Proposition 8.


1) If the court upholds Prop 8, California and other states have the power to ban same-sex marriages.

2) If the court deems Prop 8 unconstitutional in denying same-sex couples the right to marriage, it would impact 35 states that have passed bans on gay marriage.

3) If the court strikes down Prop 8 on the terms that California cannot provide same-sex couples with benefits of marriage in civil unions but withhold the term "marriage," it impacts states that allow civil unions and partnerships but not same-sex marriage.

4) The court can also strike down Prop 8 on the grounds that California could not withdraw the right to same-sex marriage after it was granted by the state's Supreme Court. This would effect only California.

[View the story "Twitter anxiously awaits decisions on DOMA, Prop 8 " on Storify]