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Top US court delays decision on taking up gay marriage

Top US court delays decision on taking up gay marriage

The Supreme Court on Friday put off until at least next week a decision on whether to take up the controversial matter of gay marriage, an issue sharply dividing the US public.

The US high court met behind closed doors to discuss the cases to be heard on this year’s docket, among them a legal challenge to the federal Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) that outlaws gay marriage.

The justices pushed back its announcement until at least Monday on whether it would take up the controversial 1996 law, which states that marriage can only be between a man and a woman.

The nine-member panel studied eight motions concerning gay marriage. Justice Ruth Ginsburg has said it is “more than likely” that they will rule on one or more of them before the court’s term ends in June.

America is quickly becoming a patchwork quilt of states that either allow or ban homosexual marriage, creating a messy tangle of legal problems, among them whether one state is obligated to honor the marriage of a gay couple from another.

Another as yet unresolved issue is whether the federal government can deny benefits to gay couples who wed in states where homosexual marriage is already legal.

A ruling by the US top court upholding DOMA would nullify the marriages of thousands of same-sex couples who have already tied the knot.

President Obama would like the law to be overturned, but conservative campaigners are urging the court to rule that DOMA is constitutional.

Until the court takes up the law, the federal government is obliged to enforce a law that prevents it from according homosexuals the same immigration, welfare, tax and employee insurance rights as heterosexual couples.

Another challenge to gay marriage heard by the court has been brought by supporters of “Prop 8,” a referendum that passed in California in 2008 that defined marriage as being between a “man and a woman” but which was overturned by a court of appeal.

If the Supreme Court throws out their appeal, California would in effect become the 10th state to permit gay marriage.

As a country, the United States appears to be slowly moving towards tolerating same-sex unions. Nine of the 50 states and the federal capital district already recognize gay marriages.

A recent opinion poll by the Pew Research Center found that 48 percent of the population accepts the idea, up from 39 percent four years ago.

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