When the nine Supreme Court justices retreated behind closed doors today for their regularly scheduled conference, they considered the issue of gay marriage and were widely expected to decide whether to take up a case that could ultimately determine whether there is a fundamental right to same-sex marriage.
But the justices surprised court watchers when they took no action at all. Although they discussed the issue in their closed door conference this morning, they made no decision on whether they would hear unrelated cases having to do with California's 2008 Prop 8 and the Defense of Marriage Act.
The Court could act on Monday when it is scheduled to release orders, or discuss the cases again in their next scheduled conference on next Friday.
At issue in the cases is Proposition 8, the controversial 2008 California ballot initiative that defines marriage as between a man and a woman. It passed with 52 percent of the vote.
A divided three-judge panel of the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals in February struck down "Prop 8," ruling that it "serves no purpose , and has no effect, other than to lessen the status and human dignity of gays and lesbians in California and to officially reclassify their relationship and families as inferior to those of opposite-sex couples."
Supporters of Prop 8 are asking the Supreme Court to hear an appeal of that ruling. Gay marriages have been put on hold in California until the Supreme Court decides whether to step in and hear the case.