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This week an informal poll question was related to an expected ruling by the Supreme court on Proposition 8. Prop 8 is the voter-approved initiative banning same-sex marriage. California is one of eight states that give gay couples all the benefits of marriage through civil unions or domestic partnership but don’t allow them to wed. Forty-one states ban gay marriage.

The poll question was: Do you Approve of Allowing Same Sex Couples to Marry in California. Just over half of the responses, 53 percent, said No. Thirty-one percent said Yes and 14 percent didn’t care. The results are in contrast with a Field Poll that concluded a record 61 percent of Californians approve of allowing same-sex couples to marry. The news story “Switch In Opinions On Gay Marriage” is here.

A Supreme Court ruling on Prop 8 could apply to Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Nevada, New Jersey, Oregon and Rhode Island who also have laws that forbid marriage but allow benefits under other terms. Same-sex marriages are legal in nine states and the District of Columbia and banned in 29 states, the rest have unique definitions.

The Associated Press reported that President Barack Obama, a former constitutional law professor, signed off on the administration’s legal argument (brief) stating that the California law provides no basis for treating gay couples differently, other than they’re not straight. The administration writes, “They establish homes and lives together, support each other financially, share the joys and burdens of raising children, and provide care through illness and comfort at the moment of death.” The brief also argues that California has already acknowledged that gay relationships bear the same hallmarks as straight ones by giving them all the benefits of marriage and temporarily allowing same-sex marriages.

One day after the Supreme Court hears the California case, the justices will hear arguments on provisions of the federal Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), which defines marriage as between a man and a woman for the purpose of deciding who can receive a range of federal benefits.

Section 3 of the act federal Defense of Marriage Act is said to violate “the fundamental constitutional guarantee of equal protection” because it denies legally married same-sex couples (in 9 states) many federal benefits that are available only to legally married heterosexual couples. DOMA will continue to be federal law unless it is struck down or repealed by the Supreme Court.

Justice Anthony Kennedy, a former Sacramento law professor, told the Associated Press he is concerned that the U.S. Supreme Court is increasingly the venue for deciding politically charged issues such as gay marriage, health care and immigration.

The 76-year-old associate justice said “Major policies in a democracy should not depend on what nine unelected people from a narrow legal background have to say.” Kennedy has often been the swing vote on the high court’s split decisions.

The Supreme Court will hear oral arguments on Proposition 8 beginning March 26th.