The Supreme Court has decided to take up cases involving California's Proposition 8, which bans gay marriage, and a provision of the Defense of Marriage Act.
NPR's Nina Totenberg tells our Newscast Desk that while ruling on the federal measure's constitutionality was anticipated, the decision to take up Prop. 8 was not.
"Defying most expectations, the justices said they will examine two cases, presenting the possibility that the court could decide all the issues surrounding same-sex marriage in one fell swoop."
The Associated Press reports the case regarding California's ban on same-sex marriage "could give the justices the chance to rule on whether gay Americans have the same constitutional right to marry as heterosexuals."
As Totenberg reported in October, the Defense of Marriage Act "defines marriage as being only between a man and a woman, meaning that the federal government is barred from recognizing same-sex marriages even when they are legal and recognized by state law."
With regards to DOMA, the AP says the court will decide "whether Congress can deprive legally married gay couples of federal benefits otherwise available to married people." It adds:
"A provision of the federal Defense of Marriage Act limits a range of health and pension benefits, as well as favorable tax treatment, to heterosexual couples."
In a live blog, the ScotusBlog reports: "The Court has offered to rule on Prop. 8 and on DOMA Section 3, but it also has given itself a way not to decide either case."