They don't get as much attention as Obama's "evolution" on the issue, but the biggest substantive wins for equality advocates continue to come through the courts.
On Tuesday, the 9th Circuit decided not to reconsider the decision that found California's Proposition 8 gay-marriage ban unconstitutional -- a victory for gay-marriage supporters that makes it likely the U.S. Supreme Court will consider the issue. And while the California decision was but one step in a long process for marriage-equality advocates, it was an important reminder: For all the attention given to the "evolution" of politicians and the public, same-sex marriage continues to make some of its most consequential gains through the judiciary.
Prop 8 proponents have 90 days to file for Supreme Court review and are expected to do so. The high court will likely decide in October whether to take the case; if it does, arguments would likely be held in the spring of 2013 and a decision issued that June, a year from now, according to Theodore Olson, the former George W. Bush administration solicitor general who helped argue the case against Prop 8.
"We expect that decision to vindicate the rights of gays and lesbians to marriage equality," Olson said during a conference call with reporters convened by the American Foundation for Equal Rights. But even if the Supreme Court agrees with the 9th Circuit, a key question will be how broadly it formulates its decision. In the February decision upheld Tuesday, the 9th Circuit found that Prop 8 violated the 14th Amendment's guarantee of equal protection, but it did not decree that the Constitution guarantees marriage equality. The Supreme Court could similarly issue a narrow ruling striking down Prop 8 but leaving intact other states' gay-marriage bans -- or it could decide to go big and make gay marriage the law of the land.