The Supreme Court agreed Friday to resolve the national debate over same-sex marriage once and for all.
The justices will consider four cases from Michigan, Ohio, Kentucky and Tennessee, consolidated and heard together. They will hear 2 1/2 hours of oral arguments in April and issue a ruling before the current term ends in late June.
The new challenges to gay marriage bans are destined to become even more of a landmark than those decided by the court in 2013 — United States v. Windsor, which forced the federal government to recognize gay marriages, and Hollingsworth v. Perry, which made California the 13th state to allow them.
Those rulings, while historic, did not resolve the threshold questions in the debate: whether gays and lesbians have a constitutional right to marry, or whether states have the right to ban the practice.
The justices will consider two questions — whether the 14th Amendment to the Constitution requires states to license marriages between same-sex couples, and whether it requires states to recognize such marriages when licensed by other states. The Michigan case involves the first question, the Ohio and Tennessee cases involve the second, and the Kentucky case includes both.
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