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How the Supreme Court could avoid ruling on gay marriage

The highly anticipated Supreme Court rulings on Proposition 8 and DOMA could wind up being a big let-down for gay marriage advocates, if the Court decides that it lacks standing to decide whether or not each law is constitutional.

Each case, set for arguments before the court Tuesday and Wednesday of this week, presents for the Justices the issue of standing - the determination of whether or not a party has a proper stake to bring the case before the Court.

In the case of Proposition 8, California's ballot measure that banned gay marriage, the Justices will consider whether supporters of the law have standing to bring the case by virtue of their sponsorship of the ballot measure. Both the District Court and the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that they do.

But if the Supreme Court decides that Prop 8 backers lack standing, it means that the highest court does not have the jurisdiction to decide the case. It would also, in turn, vacate the Ninth Circuit's decision, since the backers of the ban were the only party that brought an appeal.

Most likely, then, the decision would kick back to the District Court level, and Judge Vaughn Walker's ruling, that Proposition 8 violates the Equal Protection clause of the 14th Amendment, would stand.

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