The Supreme Court is set to make some huge decisions regarding marriage equality in the next few weeks, and San Francisco City Attorney Dennis Herrera is preparing for all outcomes. The potential good news is that, in the case of Prop 8 either getting dismissed or deemed unconstitutional, gay marriage may be able to resume in California as early as late July or early August.
Court watchers have generally leaned toward the probability that this Supreme Court is unlikely to issue any sweeping decisions that would make gay marriage legal at the federal level. Invalidating the Defense of Marriage Act, which it seems likely they may do in a separate decision, would be a hugely important first step, however, and would allow already married gays and lesbians to reap the same federal tax benefits as their straight counterparts.
As for Prop 8, because it's so closely tied to the California constitution and states' rights, legal experts have interpreted the Justices' responses and questions during oral arguments to indicate that they're unlikely to wade to deep into California's mess. As Herrera's spokesman Matt Dorsey explains in today's release, there are four scenarios, with the two least sweeping being the likeliest namely that the court will kick the case back saying that Prop 8's backers had no standing to bring the case in the first place; or they will dismiss the case as "improvidently granted," or DIG it. That would require five justices ruling that the four justices who voted to take on the case did so incorrectly, letting the 9th Circuit's decision stand as-is. Pundits have noted that this would be largely up to Justice Kennedy, and that the conservative block on the court who likely voted to grant review for the Prop 8 case were wagering that Kennedy would not do this.
As Dorsey notes, DIGs are not typical, but with the debate on this one as heated as it is, it is a possibility that they will simply decide not to touch it, which will open the door again for marriage in California.
In any event, the City Attorney's office is bracing for a press conference within hours of the decision's release, which is likely to arrive on a morning during the last week of June, between June 24 and 28, just in time for Pride.
Prop 8 Update [City Attorney's Office]