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The Supreme Court has ruled: Marriage for all

The Supreme Court's three marriage equality options

June 26 could be the day that marriage equality officially arrives in the United States.

The U.S. Supreme Court is expected to hand down its ruling in Obergefell v. Hodges either today or Monday, June 29.

Human Rights Campaign_marriage equality rally_Supreme Court April 2015
Supporters of same-sex marriage rallied outside the Supreme Court in April when oral arguments were presented. Photo courtesy Human Rights Campaign video via YouTube. 

The case actually is a consolidation of four same-sex marriage federal lawsuits, one each from Ohio, Kentucky, Tennessee and Michigan. But the ramifications of the high court's ruling ultimately will affect all 50 states.

The imminent decision is the culmination of a 40-plus year battle to expand the right to marry to same-sex couples.

The effort received a major boost in 2013 when the Supreme Court decided in the estate tax case brought by Edith Windsor that a key provision of the Defense of Marriage Act, or DOMA, was unconstitutional.

Three legal options: There's the potential for a complete change in the way that our federal government and all states recognize same sex marriage in all states.

There's also the possibility that things could remain essentially the same. 

One of the three outcomes that legal experts say could come as soon as today are:

  1. The court declares it unconstitutional to bar same-sex couples from marrying and sets one national marriage standard that allows the weddings in all states.

    UPDATE: The Supreme Court on June 26 decided on this first option, declaring in a 5-4 ruling that all states must allow and recognize same-sex marriages

  2. Laws are left as is. This would mean that the 37 states that have same sex marriage, either through state legislative action or court mandates, would continue to allow the marriages. However, the remaining states where the marriages are illegal and not recognized would continue to ban and not acknowledge the marriages.

  3. Each state is allowed to decide for itself the matter of same-sex marriage, but where a same-sex marriage is legally performed in other states, all states must accept it. Critics of this so-called Goldilocks decision say it basically goes all the way without having the guts to officially say that the ruling is a national decision.

The conventional wisdom at this point is that the Supreme Court will rule that marriage equality is required under the 14th Amendment's Equal Protection Clause.

But as we've seen in the DOMA ruling, as well as in the 2012 and yesterday's Obamacare rulings, this current collection of the country's top nine jurists is anything but conventional.

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