The court announced Friday that it will hear a challenge to the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) — the federal law that defines marriage as a union between a man and a woman. The court also agreed to hear a lawsuit challenging California's statewide ban on same-sex marriage.
As usual, the justices did not offer any explanation of why they decided to take the case. Oral arguments are expected in the spring, with a ruling to follow in the summer. The court traditionally holds its most important decisions until the last day of its term, sometime in June or July.
Supporters of same-sex marriage are optimistic about the chances the court will strike down DOMA, making all marriages equal in the eyes of federal law. It would be a historic ruling, and one of the most significant civil-rights decisions in the court's history.
As far as the top-tier, possible 2016 candidates go, NY Gov. Andrew Cuomo and MD Gov. Martin O'Malley have done the most to further the case of same-sex marriage. If DOMA goes down, the question is whether Cuomo and O'Malley will still reap political benefit three years later.