Will the U.S. Supreme Court finally settle the issue of marriage equality?

MARK SHERMAN [ap]

U.S. Supreme Court Justices: Back row (left to right): Sonia Sotomayor, Stephen G. Breyer, Samuel A. Alito, and Elena Kagan. Front row (left to right): Clarence Thomas, Antonin Scalia, Chief Justice John Roberts, Anthony Kennedy, and Ruth Bader Ginsburg.

U.S. Supreme Court Justices: Back row (left to right): Sonia Sotomayor, Stephen G. Breyer, Samuel A. Alito, and Elena Kagan. Front row (left to right): Clarence Thomas, Antonin Scalia, Chief Justice John Roberts, Anthony Kennedy, and Ruth Bader Ginsburg.

WASHINGTON — Both sides in the same-sex marriage debate agree on one thing: It’s time for the Supreme Court to settle the matter.

Even a justice recently said she thinks so, too.

The emerging consensus makes it likely that the justices soon will agree to take up the question of whether the Constitution forbids states from defining marriage as the union of a man and a woman. A final ruling isn’t likely before June 2015, but a decision to get involved could come as soon as the end of this month.

“I don’t see a lot of reasons for them to wait,” says Dale Carpenter, a gay rights expert at the University of Minnesota law school. “You have almost no one at this point opposed to certiorari,” the legal term for high court review.

Officials in five states in which marriage bans were struck down by federal courts have rushed their appeals to the Supreme Court, in time for consideration by the justices when they meet in private on Sept. 29. Moving at breakneck speed, at least for the legal system, Indiana and Wisconsin filed appeals on Tuesday, just five days after the federal appeals court in Chicago struck down their state bans.

The Chicago decision itself came just nine days after judges heard arguments, extremely fast for a process that usually is measured in months. Officials in Oklahoma, Utah and Virginia also have appealed to the Supreme Court.

Adding to the momentum, the winners in all those cases – who typically want to preserve their lower court victories and would normally oppose Supreme Court review – want the justices to weigh in. As expected, so do the losers.

In all, 36 states, encompassing both those that allow same-sex marriage and those that don’t, want the justices to join the fray. Thirty businesses, including Alcoa, Amazon, eBay, General Electric, Intel, NIKE, Pfizer and Target, say the Supreme Court should extend same-sex marriage nationwide because the “current patchwork of state laws causes employees justifiable uncertainty about how their employers and governments will treat their familial relationships.”

The range of cases seems to meet the standard set by Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg when she predicted in an interview with The Associated Press in July that the court would not look for ways to avoid ruling on same-sex marriage, as it did for many years on interracial marriage bans.

“I think the court will not do what they did in the old days when they continually ducked the issue of miscegenation,” Ginsburg said. “If a case is properly before the court, they will take it.”

The speed at which same-sex marriage has moved through the courts stems from…

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