Gay rights and other organizations, anxiously awaiting Supreme Court action on an array of same-sex marriage petitions, will have to wait a little longer. The justices emerged from their Friday conference without any word on whether they will take up one of the most important civil rights issues in a decade.
The justices had 10 petitions for review on their Friday conference list. In anticipation of some action on one or more of the petitions, same-sex marriage advocates and opponents had prepared teleconferences and other means of getting out a quick reaction.
Listing a petition for a particular conference is not a guarantee of immediate action by the Court. With 10 petitions coming from three federal appellate courts and several district courts, the justices may have needed more time to decide not just whether to step into the controversial issue, but which petition or petitions offered the best vehicle for resolving the constitutional questions raised.
The Court is expected to grant review in at least one of the petitions challenging Section 3 of the federal Defense of Marriage Act. Review is likely because two federal appellate courts—the U.S. Courts of Appeals for the First and Second Circuits—have held that Section 3 of the act is unconstitutional as applied to same-sex couples legally married under their state laws. That section defines marriage for all federal purposes as between one man and one woman. An estimated 1,000 federal laws, ranging from tax to employment benefits, are affected by the definition.
The justices also have petitions pending that involve California's Proposition 8, banning same-sex marriage in that state, and an Arizona law that eliminated state employee health benefits for domestic partners.
The justices on Friday did add two new cases to their argument docket. A closely-watched patent case, Association for Molecular Pathology v. Myriad Genetics Inc. stems from a lawsuit challenging patents granted to Myriad and the University of Utah Research Foundation giving the company exclusive right to the BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes associated with hereditary breast and ovarian cancer.
The original lawsuit was filed by the American Civil Liberties Union and the Public Patent Foundation (PUBPAT) on behalf of researchers, genetic counselors, patients, breast cancer and women's health groups, and medical professional associations representing 150,000 geneticists, pathologists and laboratory professionals.
The Court also will hear arguments in Mutual Pharmaceutical v. Bartlett, a challenge involving design defect claims and generic drug preemption.