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US Supreme Court will decide future of gay marriage cases next month

Justices will conference on whether to hear Prop. 8 and DOMA cases

The US Supreme Court will meet privately on 20 November to discuss two critical legal battles: a federal challenge to California's Proposition 8 and challenges to the Defense of Marriage Act.

The American Foundation for Equal Rights (AFER) said Monday (29 October) that if the court decides not to hear the Prop. 8 case, same-sex marriages could begin in California within days.

That is because an appellate court decision that ruled the anti-gay marriage ballot measure passed by voters unconstitutional would be made permanent and opponents would be out of legal recourse.

But if the high court does decide to hear the Prop. 8 case, AFER’s co-counsel Ted Olson and David Boies will file written briefs and present oral argument in the spring.

A final decision by the court would likely be issued by June 2013.

'AFER brought this case with the expectation of taking our challenge to Prop. 8 all the way to the Supreme Court,' the organization said in a statement. 'Now that two federal courts have found Prop. 8 unconstitutional, it is time - indeed past time - that our nation live up to the promise of liberty and equality enshrined in the Constitution, and all Americans be allowed to marry the person they love.'

As for DOMA, federal appeals courts in New York and Boston have ruled that the law is unconstitutional - rulings appealed to the Supreme Court by the Republican leadership of the House of Representatives. The Republicans have spent nearly $1.5 million defending DOMA since President Barack Obama instructed the Justice Department last year to no longer defend the constitutionality of DOMA.

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.

DOMA 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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