Update at 10:45 A.M. ET:
The Supreme Court has opted not to issue a broad ruling on California's Proposition 8, which bars same-sex marriage. The state of California had refused to defend the law in court, and so its backers took up the legal cause. The high court ruled they didn't have standing to do that. So a ruling by the lower 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals isn't valid because of these supporters' involvement. SCOTUSblog says the Supreme Court has sent the case back down with "with instructions for the appellate court to dismiss the case."
Update at 10:15 A.M. ET:
The Supreme Court has struck down the law known as DOMA — the Defense of Marriage Act. The vote was 5-4, and Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote the majority opinion. At its essence, as SCOTUSblog points out, "DOMA is unconstitutional as a deprivation of the equal liberty of persons that is protected by the Fifth Amendment."
Our original post:
We're expecting history this morning. To cap off what's already been an extraordinary and dramatic 2012 term that brought rulings on affirmative action and voting rights, the Supreme Court is expected to hand down two rulings today that could shape the future of same-sex marriage in the country.
NPR's Nina Totenberg wrapped up the two cases like this for our Newscast unit:
"One case tests the federal defense of marriage act, known as DOMA. The law bars federal benefits to same sex couples who are married in states where such unions are legal. Those challenging the law contend that it unconstitutionally denies them the equal protection of the law and that it also violates the Constitution by refusing to recognize state endorsed legal marriages. The second case, from California, is an outright challenge to state laws that bar same sex marriage. Same sex couples are challenging California's ban as a denial of their constitutional right to equal treatment."
The cases are United States v. Windsor and Hollingsworth v. Perry. The court is expected to begin handing down decisions at 10 a.m. ET. Below, we've embedded live coverage from our friends at SCOTUSblog. They'll start sending dispatches at around 9 a.m. ET.