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US Supreme Court schedules oral arguments on gay marriage cases

Justices will hear Prop. 8 and DOMA challenges March 26 and 27

The US Supreme Court announced Monday (7 January) that it will hear the challenge to California’s Proposition 8 on 26 March.

The following day (27 March), the court listen to oral arguments in a case challenging the constitutionality of the so-called Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA).

The justices will consider whether Proposition 8 violates the Fourteenth Amendment to the US Constitution. The ballot initiative banning gay marriage in California was passed by voters in the state in November 2008.

The lawsuit against the law was filed by the American Foundation for Equal Rights (AFER) on behalf of two California couples: Paul Katami and Jeff Zarrillo and Sandy Belzer Stier and Kris Perry.

In February 2012,the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit struck the law down as unconstitutional, a ruling which was then appealed to the Supreme Court.

The California couples will once again be represented in court by the unlikely legal team of Ted Olson and David Boies who had faced off against each other before the Supreme Court in the 2000 Bush vs. Gore case which resulted in George W. Bush becoming president of the US.

As for the DOMA case, federal appeals courts in New York and Boston had ruled that the law is unconstitutional - rulings appealed to the Supreme Court by the Republican leadership of the House of Representatives.

The justices have agreed to hear the New York case which was filed by Edith Windsor who sued because she was required to pay a $350,000 federal estate tax bill. The government does not recognize her marriage to her late wife Thea Spyer.

DOMA prevents the US government from recognizing same-sex marriages even in states where such marriages are legal so couples cannot file joint federal tax returns or receive survivor benefits if one spouse dies. It was passed by both houses of Congress by wide margins in 1996 and signed into law by then-President Bill Clinton.

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