Supreme Court to hear arguments in March on same-sex marriage

The Supreme Court on Monday scheduled two days of oral arguments over same-sex marriage, putting it on track for a ruling this summer.

The court is set to hear two cases on marriage during a term that also includes cases on affirmative action and the constitutionality of the Voting Rights Act.

The high court will hear arguments on March 26 in a case that challenges California's Proposition 8, which bars same-sex marriage in the state. 

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The next day, the court will hear oral arguments on the Defense of Marriage Act — the federal law that defines marriage as a union between one man and one woman and prevents states from extending many government benefits to same-sex couples, even if they are legally married in their state of residence.

The timing of the cases falls close to last year's oral arguments over President Obama's healthcare law. And like that case, a ruling is expected to come on the last day of the court's term, sometime in late June or early July.

Many court observers expect the justices to strike down DOMA, noting that Justice Anthony Kennedy has often voted to expand gay rights, including a case that struck down Texas's anti-sodomy laws.

California's marriage amendment, though, is a harder question. It's not clear that the court would be inclined to rule that there's a constitutional right to same-sex marriage in every state, and some supporters of same-sex marriage hope the court will stick to a narrow ruling.