WASHINGTON -- The Supreme Court’s eagerly awaited decisions on same-sex marriage, affirmative action and voting rights will have to wait until next week, as the justices finished this week’s public session Thursday with three rulings of much more limited interest.
The court’s next decision day is scheduled for Monday.
The justices have 11 cases remaining to decide from their current term, including the challenges to California’s Proposition 8, which barred same-sex marriage in the state, and the federal Defense of Marriage Act, which denies federal benefits to legally married same-sex couples. Also pending is a case testing whether the University of Texas’ affirmative action policies violate the Constitution and whether a key provision of the federal Voting Rights Act will survive.
All those decisions are almost certain to be released next week -- the final week of the court’s term. In theory, the justices could go beyond their deadline, but they have not done so for years. It’s also possible that the justices could ask to have a case re-argued next term, but that seldom happens.
Of the remaining cases, affirmative action, which was argued in October, has been on the docket the longest by a significant margin. When the case was argued, a majority of the justices seemed skeptical of Texas’ policies. The fact that the case has not yet been decided could indicate that the justices are closely divided, perhaps over whether to write a decision that affects only Texas or one that would sweep more broadly.
Although the court sets its own rules and generally releases decisions as soon as they are written, odds are that the marriage cases and the race-related ones will not be released the same day. Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. has generally tried to avoid having the court release several significant decisions simultaneously in the belief that crowding them together hurts public understanding of the court’s work.
The court has announced that it will release decisions on Monday. Officials have indicated that at least one other decision day will be scheduled next week, but they have not yet said when that will be. Based on past practice, Wednesday or Thursday would be the most likely days.