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Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Justices Hint At No Broad Ruling On Gay Marriage

Demonstrators stand outside the Supreme Court in Washington, Tuesday, March 26, 2013, where the court will hear arguments on California’s voter approved ban on same-sex marriage, Proposition 8. (Pablo Martinez Monsivais/AP)

Demonstrators stand outside the Supreme Court in Washington, Tuesday, March 26, 2013, where the court will hear arguments on California’s voter approved ban on same-sex marriage, Proposition 8. (Pablo Martinez Monsivais/AP)

The Supreme Court is suggesting it could find a way out of the case over California’s ban on same-sex marriage without issuing a major national ruling on whether gays have a right to marry, an issue one justice said was newer than cellphones and the Internet.

Several justices, including some liberals who seemed open to gay marriage, raised doubts Tuesday that the case was properly before them. Justice Anthony Kennedy, the potentially decisive vote on a closely divided court, suggested that the court could dismiss the case with no ruling at all.

Such an outcome would almost certainly allow gay marriages to resume in California but would have no impact elsewhere.

Kennedy said he feared the court would go into “uncharted waters” if it embraced arguments advanced by gay marriage supporters.

But lawyer Theodore Olson, representing two same-sex couples, said that the court similarly ventured into the unknown in 1967 when it struck down bans on interracial marriage in 16 states.

Kennedy challenged the accuracy of that comment by noting that other countries had had interracial marriages for hundreds of years.

There was no majority apparent for any particular outcome and many doubts expressed about the arguments advanced by lawyers for the opponents of gay marriage in California, by the supporters and by the Obama administration, which is in favor of same-sex marriage rights.

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Robin Young and Jeremy Hobson host Here & Now, a live two-hour production of NPR and WBUR Boston.

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