Will Voters Or Courts Decide Virginia's Gay-Marriage Case?

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The Virginia case is one of several that is barreling its way toward the Supreme Court. There have been debates on the gay-rights side over whether to move this issue forward in the political arena or use the court system.

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

Let's talk about the national implications of Virginia's gay marriage case. NPR's justice correspondent Carrie Johnson is in our studio. She's following the story. Hi, Carrie.

CARRIE JOHNSON, BYLINE: Hi, Steve.

INSKEEP: So is this a case - in Virginia - that could end up before the United States Supreme Court?

JOHNSON: This Virginia case is one of several that's barreling its way to the high court. It's hard to predict at this early stage which one, or how many, will actually get there and be combined together. But we have this big case in Virginia; as you heard, a very attractive, kind of symbolic set of plaintiffs there. There also are disputes on moving forward in Oklahoma and Utah, Steve, where lower court judges have invalidated state bans on same-sex marriage; and those cases have been stayed while higher courts consider them.

INSKEEP: There has been some debate in the gay rights movement about whether to argue this on the political side - because more and more people seem to support gay marriage - or to go forward with court cases. It sounds like at least some people are ready to go forward with the court cases and look for - what? - a sweeping Supreme Court ruling on this issue?

JOHNSON: Steve, I think these people are being very strategic. In the minds of some gay rights advocates, this issue is too important to wait, and too important to take the several years to make it through the political process. And so it makes sense to target the courts and the politics simultaneously.

INSKEEP: Are opponents of gay marriage still willing to argue these cases, even though some of their public support has been slipping away?

JOHNSON: Indeed, they are. There are some pockets, and some organizations, that are devoted to defending marriage as an institution between a man and a woman. They have the money and the legal firepower to continue to fight these cases. And one can expect that they will, especially in states where these ideas are so very unpopular - and may remain so for some time to come.

INSKEEP: NPR's justice correspondent, Carrie Johnson. Thanks very much.

JOHNSON: You're welcome.

INSKEEP: And you can read more about Mark Herring's announcement at npr.org. It's MORNING EDITION, from NPR News.

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