The 10th edition of the Supreme Court under Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. begins work Monday with the prospect of a monumental ruling for gay rights that could serve as a surprising legacy of an otherwise increasingly conservative court.
Whether the justices will decide that the Constitution protects the right of same-sex couples to marry dominates expectations of the coming term; such a ruling would impart landmark status on a docket that so far lacks a blockbuster case.
And some say it would be a defining moment for a closely divided court that bears the chief justice’s name but is most heavily influenced by the justice in the middle: Anthony M. Kennedy, who has written the court’s most important decisions affording protection to gay Americans.
“If the court establishes a right to same-sex marriage . . . [it] will go down in history as one that was on the frontiers of establishing rights for gays and lesbians,” said David A. Strauss, a constitutional-law scholar at the University of Chicago.
“The rough idea would be that the Roberts court would be to the rights of gays and lesbians what the Warren court was on race issues.”
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