In a historic argument on a challenge to state laws that limit marriage to heterosexual couples, the Supreme Court indicated Tuesday that it might be hesitant to strike down such laws.
Following the oral argument, Pete Williams of NBC News reported that it seemed “quite obvious that the U.S. Supreme Court is not prepared to issue any kind of sweeping ruling” declaring that same-sex couples have a constitutional right to marry.
Williams said there seemed to be “very little eagerness” from any of the justices to “embrace that broad a ruling.”
At issue in Tuesday’s argument was California’s Proposition 8, the state constitutional amendment enacted by voters in 2008 that limits marriage to one-man, one-woman couples. Williams said that both the liberal and the conservative justices seemed wary of issuing a decision that would apply to any state outside of California.
It is possible that a majority of the justices could support a limited ruling that applies only to California – or one that applies only to California and several other states which allow domestic partnerships that are almost identical to marriage in all but name.
“Several members of the court seemed to be struggling to find a way to limit this case only to California and one way to do that might be simply to say that the Proposition 8 proponents had no legal power to bring this (suit) in the first place, and I think, frankly for the advocates of same-sex marriage, my guess is that’s the best they could hope for,” Williams said.