Supreme Court agrees to take on same-sex marriage issue

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INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. (Jan. 16, 2015)-- Friday, the U.S. Supreme Court announced it will take on the issue of same-sex marriage with oral arguments beginning as early as April. It's a decision court-watchers in Indiana are already calling landmark.

In October, the Supreme Court decided not to take on Indiana's same-sex marriage case, after a federal appellate court ruled Indiana's ban on same-sex marriage was unconstitutional. The High Court will hear cases from four states in the 6th Circuit, where bans on same-sex marriage were upheld.

"The Court had to step in and resolve the issue," said David Orentlicher, Samuel R. Rosen Professor of Law at IU's McKinney School of Law.

Orentlicher said the Court's move on Friday is not surprising.

Advocates for marriage equality rode a wave of support and affirming decisions in 2014 nationwide. Indiana took center stage in June, with a ruling from a federal judge, setting off the first flurry of same-sex marriages in Indianapolis. That decision was stayed but later upheld by an appellate court.

"In January, we were fighting to keep discrimination out of our state's constitution. Ten months later, we were celebrating marriage equality in our state," said Jane Henegar, Executive Director of the ACLU of Indiana.

But in November of 2014, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 6th circuit upheld same-sex marriage bans in Kentucky, Michigan, Ohio, and Tennessee, presenting conflicting decisions from federal appellate courts.

"This really in terms of establishing the rights of same sex couples will be a landmark opinion," said Orentlicher.

The U.S. Supreme Court will be looking at two key questions during the spring of 2015. They'll examine if a state can ban same-sex marriage as well as if a state can refuse to recognize same-sex marriages from other states.

"We think the Supreme Court should turn it back to the states, let the people decide this issue. The future of marriage is really for the people to decide, not Hollywood, not the media," said Micah Clark, with the American Family Association of Indiana.

Clark is hopeful the High Court will side with the rights of states, and give states like Indiana the final say. But that's an argument other legal analysts don't believe is likely.

"It's such an overwhelming sentiment, that I can't see the court siding with states' rights on this one," said Orentlicher.

U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder released a statement on Friday saying the U.S. Justice Department will file a 'friend of the court' brief to push for marriage equality.

A decision's expected from the Supreme Court by late June.

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