WASHINGTON, March 26 (RIA Novosti) – The US Supreme Court on Tuesday completed hearing arguments in the first of two landmark cases involving bans on gay marriage, with members of the nine-judge panel indicating that a California ban on same-sex unions may be struck down.
Several members of the court questioned whether it was the Supreme Court’s place to rule in the case of Proposition 8, a California law banning same-sex marriage that a lower court later ruled unconstitutional.
Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy, widely seen as a key swing vote in a court divided sharply along ideological lines, said the court would enter “uncharted territory” by issuing a ruling in the case and that perhaps the decision should be left with the state of California.
Should the court decide to dismiss the case, the lower court’s ruling to overturn the ban on same-sex marriage would stand.
Kennedy joined the court’s liberal justices in peppering Charles Cooper, the attorney representing opponents of same-sex marriage in the case, with questions on the merits of upholding the ban.
Kennedy said tens of thousands of children currently being raised by same-sex couples in California could face “imminent legal injury” under the ban, Reuters reported.
“There’s some 40,000 children in California that live with same-sex parents,” Kennedy said, The New York Times reported. “They want their parents to have full recognition and full status. The voice of those children is important.”
Justice Antonin Scalia of the court’s conservative wing, meanwhile, said it was unclear whether children raised by same-sex couples might suffer long-term damage, the Los Angeles Times reported.
Crowds of same-sex marriage supporters and opponents rallied outside the Supreme Court ahead of Tuesday’s arguments. A decision in the case is expected to come in June.
On Wednesday the court is set to hear arguments on the constitutionality of a provision in the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) that denies numerous federal benefits to same-sex couples, even if those couples’ marriages are legal in the handful of states that recognize same-sex unions.
At present, nine US states and the District of Columbia allow same-sex couples to marry legally and several other states are debating similar legislation.