The same-sex marriage debate made simple

In Minnesota, much of the focus on the issue of same-sex marriage has been, understandably, on the constitutional amendment on November’s ballot. No matter how it fares, same-sex marriage will still be illegal in Minnesota.

But in its next term, the U.S. Supreme Court may decide whether the Constitution requires full marriage equality, “how far government may go to promote or prevent it, and how national and state governments divide up the power to regulate it,” SCOTUSblog’s Lyle Denniston writes.

His blog is starting a “same-sex marriage symposium” this week, featuring many of the country’s best and brightest looking at what the court might do.

Denniston kicks it off with a look at Proposition 8, the California law that repealed same-sex marriage:

… public opinion polls have started to show some changing attitudes about opening marriage to gays and lesbians. Lately, the apparent shift has been strong enough to prompt a Harvard law professor, Michael Klarman, to write in a new book: “In 2012, it is hard to remember what a radical concept gay marriage was in 1990.”

Whether that shift will have an impact on the Justices of the Supreme Court is one of the questions lurking in the new cases. In fact, when high-profile lawyers four years ago filed a major lawsuit seeking to gain marriage equality under the Constitution for same-sex couples, they said candidly that they hoped the concept would gain in public favor in the years they knew it would take to get that case before the Justices, perhaps making a difference at the Court.

That case is now at the Court, the best-known of the new cases and the one with the most potential to produce the widest possible decision for – or against – same-sex marriage. That is so because the case involves a state’s flat ban on such marriages and whether that interferes with the federal guarantee of legal equality, in the Fourteenth Amendment.

Among those who will take part in the online symposium is Dale Carpenter at the University of Minnesota law school.

Carpenter debated the issue at a University of St. Thomas forum last winter.