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Local Expert Expects Supreme Court To Take Up Same Sex Marriage Case

By Cherri Gregg

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) - The United States Supreme Court could decide today on whether to enter the battle over same sex marriage by taking one of several pending appeals. A local expert says the court almost has no choice but to enter the fray.

Two cases could get picked up by the US Supreme Court for the next term. The first case deals with the federal Defense of Marriage Act, which only recognizes marriages between a man and a woman. Gay couples have challenged the part of the law barring their receipt of federal benefits.

The other case deals with California's proposition eight, which bans gay marriage in the state.

"I think they are going to take at least one, if not both of these issues," says Kermit Roosevelt, who teaches constitutional law at University of Pennsylvania Law School.  "I think their hand has been forced a little bit."

Roosevelt spent a year clerking for US Supreme Court Justice David H. Souter. He says the court is likely to take on same sex marriage this term, but it doesn't mean the judges will deal with the big issue of whether there is a constitutional right to same sex marriage.

"I don't think they want to decide the fundamental question yet and I think they will try to avoid it," says Roosevelt. "Decisions like the case saying interracial marriage is constitutionally protected typically come a little later in the process. It would be surprising if the Supreme Court took this opportunity to say, 'yes there is a federal constitutional right to same sex marriage.' I don't think the Supreme Court will go that far and the cases don't require it to."

Thirty-one states have passed constitutional amendments banning gay marriage, while nine states have legalized it.

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