The Supreme Court seemed to make clear this week that it is in no rush to expand the rights of same-sex couples to marry.
The court made history simply by taking up the first cases it has ever heard on the issue of marriage equality. And in both cases, the justices seemed concerned with minimizing the footprint their decisions will leave.
Rulings are expected this summer, and however they come down, they’re unlikely to be the last word — or even the high court’s last word — on same-sex marriage.
Many legal experts were surprised when the court announced which cases it would take. The decision to hear a challenge to California’s Proposition 8 was especially noteworthy, because that case created the possibility for a sweeping decision in favor of same-sex marriage.
But by the end of oral arguments in both cases, the justices seemed to be testing the waters rather than diving in.
“You want us to step in and render a decision based on an assessment of the effects of this institution, which is newer than cellphones or the Internet?” Justice Samuel Alito said Tuesday. “I mean, we do not have the ability to see the future.”