What does today’s Supreme Court announcement mean for Georgia’s gay marriage case?

News broke minutes ago that the Supreme Court will take up a same-sex marriage case this term—six same-sex marriage cases to be exact, coming out of Kentucky, Michigan, Ohio and Tennessee. That means a decision could come down at the end of the term in late June, and if it goes the way the majority of lower court decisions have, same-sex marriage would be legal across the country.

Lambda Legal senior attorney Tara Borelli. (photo via Lambda Legal)
Lambda Legal senior attorney Tara Borelli. (photo via Lambda Legal)

But it’s not a guarantee that the court decides the issue during this term, says Lambda Legal senior attorney Tara Borelli.

The briefing schedule shows that the court is considering two questions: whether the 14th amendment requires a state to issue a marriage license between two people of the same sex and whether the 14th amendment requires a state to recognize a marriage between two people of the same sex when their marriage is performed legally out-of-state.

Briefing has to be completed by April 17, and there are six argument dates that are open during the remainder of the term in which the justices could—or couldn’t—slot in arguments in the same-sex marriage cases. If they didn’t, the wait for a national decision would continue, and the issue would be decided in the next term.

If they slotted in a day for arguments in the case this term, each side would have 90 minutes to argue question one and 60 minutes to argue question two.

It remains to be seen what today’s news means for the Georgia case, which got a boost after last week’s announcement that Judge William Duffey was denying the state’s motion to dismiss.

“The legal team will be talking to evaluate what this means for how the Georgia case proceeds. We’ll be evaluating our options,” Borelli says.

So looking past that, say the Supreme Court legalizes same-sex marriage nationwide, whether in this term or next—what happens to the Georgia case?

“Pending marriage cases, like the one in Georgia, may remain an important vehicle for obtaining a final judgment against state and local officials,” Borelli says. “Particularly where defendants have continued to defend the law, obtaining a final judgment against them can provide important clarity for all same-sex couples in Georgia.”

So the Inniss case could still continue regardless of a nationwide decision in favor of marriage equality. And if the Supreme Court made such a ruling, you probably won’t have to wait long to get that marriage license in Georgia.

“It would probably depend on how the decision is written but if the court provided the plaintiffs in the case a victory, I think it would be very soon that we would see marriage available and recognized nationwide,” Borelli says.

psaunders@thegavoice.com | @patricksaunders