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Supreme Court takes no action yet on same-sex marriage appeals

By Bill Mears, CNN Supreme Court Producer
updated 4:26 PM EST, Fri November 30, 2012
April Dawn Breeden, left, and longtime partner Crystal Peairs are married by the Rev. Katie Hotze-Wilton at St. Louis City Hall on Wednesday, November 5. A Missouri judge on November 5 overturned the state's ban on same-sex marriages and ordered registrars to start issuing licenses to gay and lesbian couples. More than 30 states and the District of Columbia allow marriage for same-sex couples. April Dawn Breeden, left, and longtime partner Crystal Peairs are married by the Rev. Katie Hotze-Wilton at St. Louis City Hall on Wednesday, November 5. A Missouri judge on November 5 overturned the state's ban on same-sex marriages and ordered registrars to start issuing licenses to gay and lesbian couples. More than 30 states and the District of Columbia allow marriage for same-sex couples.
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Same-sex marriage in the U.S.
Same-sex marriage in the U.S.
Same-sex marriage in the U.S.
Same-sex marriage in the U.S.
Same-sex marriage in the U.S.
Same-sex marriage in the U.S.
Same-sex marriage in the U.S.
Same-sex marriage in the U.S.
Same-sex marriage in the U.S.
Same-sex marriage in the U.S.
Same-sex marriage in the U.S.
Same-sex marriage in the U.S.
Same-sex marriage in the U.S.
Same-sex marriage in the U.S.
Same-sex marriage in the U.S.
Same-sex marriage in the U.S.
Same-sex marriage in the U.S.
Same-sex marriage in the U.S.
Same-sex marriage in the U.S.
Same-sex marriage in the U.S.
Same-sex marriage in the U.S.
Same-sex marriage in the U.S.
Same-sex marriage in the U.S.
Same-sex marriage in the U.S.
Same-sex marriage in the U.S.
Same-sex marriage in the U.S.
Same-sex marriage in the U.S.
Same-sex marriage in the U.S.
Same-sex marriage in the U.S.
Same-sex marriage in the U.S.
Same-sex marriage in the U.S.
Same-sex marriage in the U.S.
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STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Justices held closed-door meeting to decide whether to hear appeal
  • Unclear, but justices could need more time; next meeting Dec. 7
  • NEW: Some states have approved same-sex marriage; while others have banned it
  • Court again could be at center of case with huge social, legal and political stakes

Washington (CNN) -- The Supreme Court took no action Friday on a pending series of appeals over the divisive issue of same-sex marriage.

The justices had a closed-door conference to consider whether to accept for review several challenges to federal and state laws restricting the ability of gay and lesbian couples to legally wed.

But the court, without explanation, had nothing to report on the pending appeals. It was perhaps a sign it needed more time to consider the complex legal and constitutional questions.

If the high court has merely delayed consideration of the same-sex marriage cases, it may be prepared to revisit them as early as next Friday, when the justices hold another private conference.

Hollingsworth v. Perry (2013): The Supreme Court dismissed an appeal over California's Proposition 8 on jurisdictional grounds. The voter-approved ballot measure barring same-sex marriage was not defended by state officials, but rather a private party. This ruling cleared the way for same-sex marriage in California to resume, but left open-ended the legal language of 35 other states barring same-sex marriage. Take a look at other important cases decided by the high court. Hollingsworth v. Perry (2013): The Supreme Court dismissed an appeal over California's Proposition 8 on jurisdictional grounds. The voter-approved ballot measure barring same-sex marriage was not defended by state officials, but rather a private party. This ruling cleared the way for same-sex marriage in California to resume, but left open-ended the legal language of 35 other states barring same-sex marriage. Take a look at other important cases decided by the high court.
Supreme Court cases that changed America
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Photos: Supreme Court cases that changed America Photos: Supreme Court cases that changed America
Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr. was appointed by President George W. Bush in 2006 and is known as one of the most conservative justices to serve on the court in modern times. Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr. was appointed by President George W. Bush in 2006 and is known as one of the most conservative justices to serve on the court in modern times.
Samuel A. Alito Jr.
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Photos: Today\'s Supreme Court Photos: Today's Supreme Court

The political, social, and legal stakes of this long-simmering debate would once again put the high court at the center of national attention, a contentious encore to its summer ruling upholding the massive health care reform law championed by President Barack Obama.

Three separate issues on same-sex marriage confront the justices, including federal benefits, state benefits and state referendums.

Although there was no certainty the court was prepared to announce it would be tackling the issue, there was building anticipation among advocacy groups on both sides of the debate.

The Boston-based Gay & Lesbian Advocates & Defenders had set up temporary offices in a building next door to the high court to await word. Officials there privately expressed a measure of anxiety as the hours passed with no announcement.

The organization represents a broad group of gay and lesbian individuals and families in New England who were denied a range of federal benefits under the federal Defense of Marriage Act, or DOMA.

For federal purposes under the 1996 law, marriage is defined as only between one man and one woman. That means federal tax, Social Security, pension, and bankruptcy benefits, and family medical leave protections -- do not apply to gay and lesbian couples.

Earlier this month, voters in Maryland, Washington, and Maine approved same-sex marriage, adding to the six states and the District of Columbia that already have done so. Minnesota voters also rejected an effort to ban such unions through a constitutional amendment.

The court on Friday did accept for review two unrelated cases, including an appeal of whether human genes are patentable.

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